Before Media Day, we had this exchange with Celtics’ Twitter:
Outside of a handful of preseason games and five minutes in Cleveland, we never got a chance to see this dynamic duo in action. But this is a new year.
At today’s Media Day, teammates were gushing about how Gordon Hayward has looked in 5-on-5 scrimmages. Marcus Smart says, “he has something to prove. He’s coming back with a vengeance.” Here’s Semi Ojeleye on Hayward’s progress:
Semi on Hayward: "If you didn’t know what happened you wouldn’t have guessed he had an injury. He looks great. He’s getting more confident every day he’s on the court. He’s getting back to the form we saw him in before he was a Celtic & we’re looking forward to getting him back."— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) September 24, 2018
He’s talked about a lack of explosion from his injured ankle, but that will come with game action. There will be hiccups, but right now, building confidence will be the biggest hurdle. When he’s ready, Brad Stevens has plans for his former Butler Bulldog:
Brad Stevens hyping Hayward's ability to play PG again: "Gordon's ability to play as the primary ball handler will open up opportunities there (playing alongside other wings). ... We're going to have all those guys out there at once and hopefully be very versatile."— Jay King (@ByJayKing) September 24, 2018
Kyrie’s recovery from knee surgery has been just as documented as Hayward’s this summer. He showed up at Team USA’s workouts in Vegas and Instagram videos from Miami. By all accounts, the All-Star is healthy and not just ready to get back this season, but potentially for seasons to come. At Media Day, he talked about the history of the franchise and looking forward to being a part of it. Celtics legend Bill Russell visited some of his pick up games in Seattle and Irving talked about hopefully someday, his #11 going up in the rafters.
Marcus Morris mocked the idea that Irving was the 20th best player in the league (per Sports Illustrated) and was confident that if he was healthy, the Celtics would have been in The Finals. His knee is pain-free and Stevens is confident that there won’t be issues going forward.
Last season, the Celtics ranked 18th in OffRtg with Irving playing 60 games and yes, made it to a game of The Finals. Now, Boston gets back its two key playmakers (with all due respect to Al Horford) with the league’s deepest and arguably the most versatile roster in the NBA. When asked about his role as a team leader, Irving responded, “well, part of leadership is empowerment, and really realizing how great some of these guys are – how talented.”
Media Day can be a hype machine, but hyperbole aside, this is going to be a really good team fronted by two young stars.