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Gordon Hayward, Celtics

NBA

Gordon Hayward looks totally back and the Celtics look like contenders

The Boston Celtics are off to a red-hot start to open the new season. The C’s are now 6-1, tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the best record in the entire league. There’s no denying that the sample size is small and there’s still so much basketball to be played, but at this point, it does appear that Boston is looking like a legitimate contender this season.

One man who has been in the thick of it all for the C’s is none other than Gordon Hayward. Simply put, the 6-foot-7 wing is looking like his old self again, and he has been phenomenal in the first seven games of the new season.

The 29-year-old is averaging 20.3 points (on 56.4 percent shooting), a career-high 7.9 rebounds, and 4.6 assists while also connecting on 1.7 3-pointers per game on a 44.4 percent clip. Just look at this beautiful shot chart:

This is the Hayward the Celtics were expecting when they signed him two years ago to a lucrative four-year, $128 million contract.

The former ninth overall pick was coming off an All-Star year from the Utah Jazz when the Celtics tapped him up in the summer of 2017, but in the most unfortunate of circumstances, Hayward suffered a horrendous leg injury just five minutes into his Boston debut.

Hayward was forced to sit out the entirety of that season, but was able to make his much-awaited comeback last year. He was a shadow of his former self, though, averaging just 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 0.9 steals in just 25.9 minutes per game of play last year. Something just looked off.

It has been a completely different story for Hayward and the Celtics this season. Right now, we’re seeing Hayward at his best, and the benefit of his heightened level of play has already translated to six wins in seven contests for the C’s.

Hayward’s resurgence is not at all that surprising, considering we all knew what he was capable of prior to his injury. However, not many could have predicted such an explosion from the former Butler standout. We all knew he was good, but only few could have seen that he was going to be this good.

Entering the new season, all eyes were on Boston’s new cornerstone superstar Kemba Walker, who himself signed a huge four-year, $140.8 million deal with the team during the summer. All the hype surrounding Walker may have actually worked in the favor of Hayward, who perhaps was feeling a lot less pressure now that the new kid in town was grabbing all the headlines.

For his part, Walker has likewise been tremendous to start his career with the Celtics, and his arrival appears to have also been quite beneficial for Hayward himself. These two have formed quite a partnership already, and along with the other core players on the team, Boston is definitely looking like a force to be reckoned with season.