Gordon Hayward may be “back,” but Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge isn’t ready to embrace the hype around him just yet.
Hayward suffered a devastating leg injury just minutes into Boston’s season opener in 2017, his first game with the team after a seven-year stint with the Utah Jazz. That gruesome injury sidelined him for the entire season.
Now, nearly two years removed from the injury, Hayward is completely healthy — creating excitement in Boston among fans who hope to finally see up close what Hayward can do in peak condition.
Ainge, while excited himself, is pumping the breaks.
“I think right now there’s been a lot of buzz about Gordon and his comeback, and I’m worried that it’s getting a little out of hand,” Ainge said Saturday, via MassLive. “Like, I think he’s Gordon. He’s back to being Gordon. And we’re very excited about that.
“I sometimes worry like, ‘Oh my gosh, they think it’s somebody else.’”
Hayward looked solid for the Celtics at times last season. It just took the 29-year-old a while to get there.
He struggled early in the year, and finished the season averaging just 11.5 points per game, the lowest output since his rookie season. He transitioned into more of a bench role, starting just 18 games, and was streaky.
When he played well, though, the Celtics played well. Boston went 17-4 in games when Hayward scored at least 15 points, per MassLive, and he helped push the team to a dominant series win against the Indiana Pacers in the opening round of the playoffs — dropping 20 points in Game 4 to secure the sweep.
So far this fall, though, Hayward said he’s had zero issues with his health.
“I feel good,” Hayward said, via MassLive. “The past few days have been great. The body feels 100 percent. It’s been really good getting out there back with the guys, playing 5-on-5.”
While it may not always look like it — especially at certain times last season — Ainge knows Gordon can be the best player on the floor for the Celtics at any given time.
“Gordon is just a good basketball player,” Ainge said, via MassLive. “He can think, he can pass, he can shoot, he can create, he can defend, he can rebound. I mean, he’s a complete player. And we need him to be just that. And we need lots of other guys to play up to their best, and I think we have a chance to be really good.”
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