‘My goal is to help us get that banner’, Celtics’ Hayward says

Gordon Hayward (first from left) joined the Boston Celtics in July 2017. (Reuters pic)

BOSTON: Gordon Hayward said on Thursday he’s ready to return to action for the Boston Celtics.

Hayward said he’s recovered and expects to be on the floor when the Celtics open the regular season against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 16. His 2017-18 season lasted just five minutes, ended by a gruesome leg injury.

“I’m just excited to be out there,” Hayward, 28, told reporters at the Auerbach Center on Thursday afternoon. “It’s been so much fun to be able to play again and play with my teammates. These past few weeks and the next probably month or so will be good to get back into the game.”

Hayward said his recovery and rehabilitation was “the most difficult thing” he’s had to do. Now, however, he said he has been playing full-court, 5-on-5 games for two weeks with “pretty much no restrictions.”

He said he isn’t 100% in terms of basketball ability but is getting there.

“The last step for me, as far as from a physical standpoint, is just the little explosion,” he said. “That’s going to take maybe the longest time, but like I said, for the most part, I feel very good.”

Hayward said that in his return to 5-on-5 play, he hasn’t been afraid to cut or jump. He’s looking to regain his timing and rhythm, and he is eager to regain the groove with his teammates. Once the season starts, he doesn’t care if he’s contributing as a starter or by coming off the bench.

“It’s not something I’m worried about at all,” Hayward said. “We’re worried about winning and putting another banner up. … We have so much depth, we have so much talent, it doesn’t matter who starts for me. My goal is to help us get that banner.”

Without Hayward, Boston finished 55-27, good for second place in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics had a 2-0 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, but squandered it and lost the series in seven games.

Hayward played seven seasons in Utah before signing a four-year, US$128 million (RM531 million) contract with Boston in July 2017. With Utah, he had career averages of 15.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 31.3 minutes per game.