Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has seen three games of preseason action coming into training camp, but he has yet to find a place of comfort and feel like he has gotten back to his former self. Hayward missed all but the opening minutes of the 2017-18 regular season after suffering a freak injury going for a backdoor alley-oop, injuring his tibia and shattering his ankle upon an awkward landing.
While Hayward has taken the floor for an average of nearly 20 minutes per game, he has yet to regain the right flow that made him an All-Star in 2016-17 with the Utah Jazz.
“Physically, I feel pretty good,” Hayward told ESPN's Zach Lowe. “But I don't feel comfortable on the floor yet. It's one thing to be physically able to do everything. It's another to be a basketball player — the timing and the rhythms. When you've been playing a long time, you just know. But not after you take a huge break, and come back to a new system. The second surgery was such a setback. I was really looking forward to playing 5-on-5 the whole summer. What I'm going through now is what I wanted to do in the summer, but it didn't work out that way.”
The 6-foot-8 forward had just started to run full speed and play one-on-one in late May when he went under the knife again, as doctors saw it best to remove the plate and screws. Hayward had experienced pain around his ankle for months. He wanted to have the surgery earlier, fearing that going under the knife in May or June would ruin his recovery process this summer.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” he said, “but I wish we had knocked this out in March.”
It might take Hayward the early part of the season to fall right back into a groove, and while he might have his share of growing pains through the process, the Celtics have the necessary pieces to win without him at 100 percent.