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Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has shown signs this season of the talent that made him an All-Star with the Utah Jazz, but his recovery from a gruesome leg injury in last season's opener has been a slow process.
Hayward is averaging 10.7 assists, 3.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game this season. After beginning the year in the starting lineup, the 28-year-old forward was sent to the bench, where he serves as a scorer and playmaker on the second unit.
The last five games have particularly tough for Hayward. He's scoring 5.2 points per game and shooting 30.8 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from 3-point range over that span. The Celtics have lost four of those five games and five of six overall after the All-Star break.
When will Hayward regain his All-Star form? His agent, Mark Bartelstein, is confident it will come back, but it might not be until the 2019-20 campaign.
"There's no doubt in my mind," Bartelstein recently said on WEEI's "Late Night with Patrick Gilroy."
"My guess is he doesn't get his game all the way back where we're accustomed to seeing it until next year. He's going to need a summer to get back in the gym and get back in the laboratory and the weight room and build on everything he did last year. But there's not a doubt in my mind. He'll be an All-Star in this league many, many times over."
Bartelstein's timeline certainly makes sense.
Paul George suffered a gruesome leg injury in August of 2014 and returned for the final six games of the 2014-15 regular season. George, who played for the Indiana Pacers at the time, looked a lot like Hayward does now during those six games. With a full summer in 2015 to work on his game and conditioning, George averaged 23.5 points per game during the 2015-16 season and was named to the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, where he scored 41 points.
Hayward has too much talent to continue playing at his current level, and he will improve by the end of this season. However, with another summer to work on his game and build his strength, Celtics fans should expect a much-improved Hayward next season.
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