The Athletic dropped its first installment of their Gordon Hayward docuseries detailing his return and the struggles he faced on his return to the Celtics.
In the first episode, Hayward recounts the night of the injury with cameo’s from Semi Ojeleye, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Brad Stevens recounting their emotions at the time of the injury. Hayward gets into the process of surgery and some of his initial fears such as whether he could ever have a career again.
Mental heath during the rehab process was an important theme that showed up throughout the series’ first installment. After the surgery, Hayward gives us an inside look at the early days of his rehab. Some of it has already been discussed in his blogs, but he digs further into the mental side of the rehab.
One of the most likely topics that’ll hit the news cycle was Hayward’s conflicting views of the teams early success without him. “Getting hurt and being hurt not being able to be out there and then feeling like you’re not part of the team, feeling like they don’t need you, it was just a mixed bag of emotions but you’re sitting there just thinking to yourself, ‘that could be me, I should be out there, but I'm not I'm here in the hospital bed.’”
As Hayward’s wife, Robyn, put it, the struggle was getting Hayward to not be overwhelmed by the emotions of not being able to play. “My only worry was keeping him from getting too down because he’s a quiet person. he plays basketball, he plays video games, and he hangs out with his family, that’s really it. So you just took one of the things he does all the time away from him, right? So what is he going to do?”
Hayward is back on the court now and slowly trying to incorporate himself back into Boston’s loaded offense. The transition has had its challenges, he still hasn’t been able to find his shooting stroke and ended the preseason shooting 5/20 from the field which included 1/10 from three. Hayward explained some of the difficulties getting acclimated again with Zach Lowe:
Physically, I feel pretty good, 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.”
That second surgery Hayward is referring to is the one that he had in May to remove plates that were irritating him for months. Instead of getting a summer of playing 5-on-5, Hayward didn’t get a chance to start playing his first one-on-one against an NBA starter until his August 28th workout against Wizards star Bradley Beal. The flashes are there, like on his chase down block against the Cavaliers, or his pull-up three against the Hornets:
For Hayward, the struggle will be not allowing a game like his 1-7 performance against the Cavaliers to consume him and continue to focus on the process over the results. As Hayward’s trainer Jason Smeathers put it, “On this team, you are allowed to have a bad game.”
The journey back to being an NBA All-Star is still a process for Hayward, but the process he has made thus far to get on the court is encouraging and it’ll only be a matter of time before he rediscovers his rhythm.