Gordon Hayward has had doubts: Can he ever get fully healthy again? Can he get back to being the same player he was before? Will the cycle of injury and rehab ever end?
Indianapolis Colts quarterback shocked the sports world with his sudden retirement a week ago. Hayward, an Indianapolis native, said as a fan he was disappointed to see Luck step down, but as a player he could relate to where Luck was emotionally. NBC Sports Boston’s A. Sherrod Blakely asked Hayward about Luck.
“Pretty shocked like everybody (else),” said the 29-year-old Hayward, who on Wednesday was participating in an all-girls Jr. Celtics basketball camp as part of the “Her Time to Play” national initiative. “But at the same time, I definitely know where he’s coming from. I know how that whole situation feels…
“It sucks; you feel isolated,” Hayward said. “It feels like a job because you’re not getting to do the fun parts of it. And you always have those (thoughts), ‘What if I’m not the same player?’ You have to bottle that and just focus on the present … I understand exactly where (Luck is) coming from.”
Hayward missed all but five minutes of the 2017-18 season due to a major ankle injury. Outside of that season he’s been relatively injury free, unlike Luck who had a series of injuries over several years that wore him down.
A lot is expected of Hayward this season, his third in Boston. Last season, after a slow start that saw him move to the bench, Hayward started to look more and more like his old self as the season wore on. This season, with Kyrie Irving gone, Hayward is expected to have a larger role on the court and be a leader in the locker room (where a lot of chemistry needs to be repaired). Expectations for the Celtics are not as sky-high as a year ago, but this is still a good team with potential.
Next summer, Hayward could turn down his player option for $34.2 million and become a free agent, but we all know that’s highly unlikely. However, Hayward needs to show teams he has something left as he starts to think about the contract after this one.