Gordon Hayward's season opener gives hope for a major return to form with Celtics
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Gordon Hayward’s season opener gives hope for a major return to form with Celtics

Celtics, Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward’s performance in Wednesday night’s season opener against the Sixers is giving Celtics fans hope that their star is getting back to healthy form.

As hoops fans know, Hayward suffered one of the more gruesome injuries in recent sports history. In the opening minutes of Boston’s 2017-18 season opener against the Cavs, the former Butler Bulldog suffered a fractured tibia and dislocated ankle in his left leg.

A long rehabilitation process ensued — one that Hayward documented in a variety of ways. He played a fair amount last season, but he never was able to get fully comfortable and only had flashes of his All-Star ability.

Now, though, with his recovery shrinking in the rearview mirror, he’s looking to get back into full swing.

Hayward played well in Wednesday’s season opener. In fact, he led the Celtics in scoring, racking up 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field, five rebounds and two assists in 35 minutes of action. He also went 9-for-11 from the free-throw line:

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum added 21 points on 8-of-22 shooting to go with 10 rebounds in Wednesday’s loss. Enes Kanter and Kemba Walker chipped in 12 points apiece.

One specific sign of Hayward’s comfort level was his aggressiveness going to the basket. He made 18 drives to the bucket against the Sixers, which seems to indicate that he is feeling healthy. For perspective, he averaged just 5.7 drives per game last season:

This is certainly a good sign for Boston. If Hayward is able to attack the rim with frequency this season, opposing sides will need to account for his presence on the court. He was already a threat from the perimeter, but now that he’s cutting with conviction, defending teams will need to tighten up their game plans.

In the end, the Celtics were unable to overcome their shooting woes from the field and free-throw line. As a result, the Sixers carried the day, 107-93.

Still, Hayward saw silver linings:

“I’m proud that we competed the whole night,” Hayward said during his postgame media availability. “I think there are a lot of things we can improve on. I think we did some good things as well.

“We got good looks,” Hayward added. “You’ll take that every day of the week. You can bank on us making more of those.”

Hopefully, this is a trend that will continue for Hayward. His recovery story is both motivating and inspirational. Many athletes are never the same after such an injury, but he’s looking to change that narrative.