No doubt, this must go down as another disappointing NBA season for Celtics forward Gordon Hayward. Sure, he played well to open the year and had his best numbers in his three seasons in Boston, but injuries continued to dominate the story of his time with the Celtics. He missed 18 games because of injury during the regular season and, worse, missed almost all of the postseason after injuring his ankle in the playoff opener in August.
Hayward did return for the final four games of the conference finals against the Miami Heat. But since the Celtics were eliminated in six games from that series, speculation has abounded that Hayward was far from 100% healthy in his return. That could affect his future, with Hayward slated to reach free agency in 2021 at the latest.
Citing a league source, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald wrote that during the playoffs, Hayward “was ‘50-50’ at best, and really in no position to impact a game.”
Before that, Gary Washburn of the Globe weighed in writing, “was hardly 100 percent, and that affected the Celtics’ approach. According to an NBA source, Hayward sustained nerve and retinaculum damage in that sprained ankle and he could barely jump. He needed about two-plus more weeks of rehab that the Celtics just didn’t have. So he played on one leg.”
Gordon Hayward Has Not Delivered in Celtics Playoff Runs
Bear in mind, when local media cites an “NBA source” there is a good chance it is someone from Hayward’s camp, doing its best to prop up the player as he heads into an important set of decisions coming in the next year.
Hayward’s numbers were terrible in his return against Miami, averaging 10.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 30.7 minutes. He shot 40.5% from the field and 27.8% from the 3-point line in the series. It behooves the folks behind Hayward to portray him as fighting through injury to the local beat reporters.
That’s especially true when considering that Hayward was not much more useful in last year’s postseason despite being relatively healthy. He averaged 9.6 points on just 41.4% shooting but did shoot 37.5% from the 3-point line.
Hayward was outstanding in his final playoff appearance with the Jazz in 2017, averaging 24.1 points with 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists, numbers he’s not come close to matching in a Boston uniform.
Gordon Hayward Has a $34.7 Million Player Option
Hayward signed a four-year deal to join the Celtics in 2017 and has a player option on the final year of his contract, 2020-21. That year is worth $34.7 million and it is all but certain that Hayward will opt in and push free agency back to next year.
Even with his poor numbers, there was a sense in Boston that had Hayward been on the floor for the first two games of the Heat series, things could have been different. The Celtics lost both games despite having double-digit leads and Miami was able to expose Boston’s lack of depth.
The Celtics lost the first game in overtime and the second game by five points.
“My regret is not what we put in,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “My regret is not how we prepared or worked or how hard our guys worked or how committed they were to playing and staying together. You look back at those first couple of games and it put us in a tough spot. I just think that ultimately we had our chances and we didn’t take advantage of it enough.”