Media Days are always a great marker of the beginning of the new NBA season. Teams are all 0-0 and possess the hope and excitement that comes with a clean slate. Toss out the old, bring in the new, and get locked in to a new year.
For the Celtics, there are many story lines and predictions heading in this season that were addressed throughout Monday. One player in particular who will be facing large expectations this year is Gordon Hayward. He is coming into his second season after his horrific leg injury that took him out the whole 2017-2018 season. It will have been another off-season of rehabilitation and working out to strengthen the leg while getting his mind back to 100%.
Hayward made it clear that this season should be different for him. He said, “I think health-wise, I think mentally I feel a lot better going into this year.” He went on to talk about his training that will be key for him this year. It will be a huge stage for Hayward to try and get back to where he was playing in Utah. He was playing at an All-Star level and after an injury like that, it is takes plenty of time to get back to where he should be.
The takeaways from his Media Day availability were that Hayward seemed to know there was still much work to be done. He knows he can not have a repeat of last year performance-wise either individually or on a team level. The Celtics need him to get back to that 21.9 points per game version like he was in Utah. Last season, he only averaged 11.5 points per game, and that will not be enough for this team vying to make a long postseason run.
He was also very self-aware and critical of the season the team had last year. Of course, the disappointment was all around this team last season, but it is crucial for the players to take that and channel it to work harder improving on an individual level and then bringing it to the team collectively in October. Speaking on this, he said, “Some of the intangible things we did not do as good of a job last year, but individually every one of us had a lot to think about this summer and a lot to learn from and what we could all do better. I used that as motivation for myself to be a lot better of a player this off-season. We are all looking forward for this season with kind of that fresh start feel.”
This team mindset will be important for the Celtics to get back to their consistent winning ways this season. It does not matter who is on your roster on paper, as Hayward mentioned in his answers, it all matters about how each team executes. Nothing is a given in this league, and it takes a fight for everything.
Gordon Hayward will be only one of the many parts to determine this team’s successes or failures throughout this season, but if he could get back to his level of performance that he had in Utah, then the sky is the limit. With the Eastern Conference open for the taking, the Celtics could take on a different role in the conference this season. They can sit back in the shadows a bit with the pressure and expectations a little lower and the off-court drama significantly reduced.
All in all, this team knows it fell short last year and are ready to correct those mistakes this season. Everyone had another year to develop and acclimate themselves more for this to be a very fun year of Celtics basketball. It will most definitely be the “fresh start feel” we all need.