Here we are. Training Camp 2018 is upon us. It feels like it’s taken forever to get back to this point, where I can put on the green and white and play with my teammates again, kind of for the first time. And I feel like, in a lot of ways, things have come full circle for me personally.

We all hate to go through adversity, but often a lot of good comes from it, and for me, I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last year. I’ve learned that I’ve got a lot of fight in me, a lot of perseverance to keep going. My passion for this game has been refueled. When you can’t play, you just want to be around the game, and in the gym, and watching film, and doing those types of things. I want to play basketball so badly right now. I can’t wait.

I can say proudly that I haven’t missed a single day of rehab since I got hurt. From the little things back when the injury first occurred, through the setback with having a second surgery to have my hardware removed this spring, right down to every three-on-three and five-on-five over the past several weeks, I’ve shown up and put in the work to get back to this point. I’m extremely proud of that.

It has been a lot of work. There is no denying that. But, looking back it has all been worth it to be where I am right now, in Boston, with my teammates, with the start of training camp just days away.

SUMMER SESSIONS

Throughout July, I was ramping up my work, doing sessions that had me slowly doing more and more. I worked on my jumper a lot. I started off only doing one or two dribbles and then a jump shot. Then I started being able to put dribble combinations together, a series of dribble moves and a jump shot. Then I was able to attack the bucket and do a layup. And then after that, I was able to dunk.

 

After I was comfortable with all that, we added a bunch of defensive drills. All this stuff was an effort to get me to the point where I was confident and ready to play against someone else. That’s the biggest thing. Before you’re able to play, you want to simulate playing and be confident doing that. So that means doing drills where I’m cutting, agility drills where I am going around or hopping over cones, different things like that.

The biggest difference though between doing a drill and playing is that when you’re playing, it’s all reactive. When you’re doing a drill, it’s scripted. It’s predictable. But that’s why it’s just the first step. Once I was able to do both offensive scripted sessions and defensive scripted sessions, then I did some reactionary drills. That is where you saw that tennis-ball thing on Instagram, where I was doing drills to simulate playing defense.

My trainer — Jason Smeathers — would throw a tennis ball one way or the other, and I would go get it. Or they would point to a specific cone, and I would run to that cone and then run back, and then they would point to a different cone.

It’s designed to simulate playing, and engage the same muscles and reflexes you would use in those game situations. But every day you’re still not there yet, it gets a little more frustrating. You have to do all this stuff before you are allowed to play basketball, when all you really want to do is just play basketball.

But we just slowly ramped it up to the point that by the end of the summer, I was playing one-on-one and three-on-three. One-on-one, I played a lot with a guy named Daulton Hommes, who plays at Point Loma, a college in San Diego. Then, when I was playing three-on-three, I was playing with guys like Josh Childress, Travis Ware, Mike Roll. And then, my last week I was in California, I went to LA and worked out with Drew Hanlen and some of the other NBA guys he works with —Bradley Beal, Kelly Oubre, Meyers Leonard, Solomon Hill, Langston Galloway.

The three-on-three there was really good because it was really strong competition. It gave me a measure of where I was at. Not only did I ramp up what I was doing, but the level of competition also ramped up. The way we did it definitely helped build my confidence slowly. And I think it was good, because when I came back to Boston and I was finally able to play five-on-five with my teammates, I was definitely more used to the speed of it.

BACK TO BOSTON

Once I returned to Boston in the first week of September, things really started to pick up.

We have our brand new facility, and a lot of the guys have been in there working out since the beginning of the month. That was really helpful because it gave me a chance to get adjusted, and to share the court with those guys. The staff has been there too, which has been great.

As we got started, I was excited to play five-on-five, but there was still a calculated approach to what we were doing. I started out just playing one game of five-on-five and then taking a break while the guys went at it again. Then the next time, I was able to do two games. And you keep ramping things up until you can get to the point where you can just play with everybody else.

Now I will say that three-on-three and playing in half-court is way different than playing five-on-five, which is what I’ve been doing the last three weeks here.

That first time I played five-on-five, I was all over the place.

I was so antsy out there. All you had to do was give me a shot fake, and I was flying past you. I was so jumpy and twitchy out there because it had been forever since I had played. I mean, it basically had been a year since I had played five-on-five. I was trying to get used to the speed of the game, but my rhythm was off. My timing was off.

Everything I had been doing over the previous several months, I was either on the court by myself, or eventually, playing one-on-one and three-on-three. So you feel like there’s so much room and so many places you can be. Then when you have 10 players, it’s cramped. You have to go to specific spots and there isn’t much room for error. It was a lot to get back adjusted to, but that is all part of the process.

I’m definitely feeling much better out there now, in the third week of things. I just needed to adjust and get over that initial hurdle.

This workout time with the guys been great so far. Having a chance to be around the team, to share the court with them, has been really good for me. It’s helped me feel like I am part of the team again, and get reintegrated. It’s been an important few weeks. Training camp is coming up quick, and then we have preseason games three days after that starts.

It’s tough to say right now how much playing time I’ll get in the preseason. It’s really going to be game-by-game, I think, because there is a fine line between doing enough, and doing too much.

I know that right now, I need more than anything to just play and get my in-game conditioning up to the level where I can handle playing once the season begins. My conditioning as far as just running is great. As far as my cardio and physically running, we did a test the other day, and I was the last one standing on the team.

But my in-game conditioning is something that we have to work on. You can do all the cardio drills you want. There’s just something different about guarding somebody in the game, chasing somebody off the screen, coming off the pick and roll, and having the legs to be able to shoot a jump shot, grabbing a rebound and going back up, shooting a fadeaway.

All those things require in-game legs and conditioning, and that’s the stuff that I need to work on. So, you know, ideally, I’d like to play a lot in the preseason to get that experience.

At the same time, I understand that the team and the trainers want to monitor how much I’m actually playing, and how much of a load I’m putting on my ankle, and the rest of my body. It’s a delicate balance. We want to make sure that I’m getting the work that I need, but we don’t want me to overdo it, and then hurt something else or hurt my ankle because I’m trying to do too much.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I’ve got to get used to that again.

LOOKING AHEAD

As this process continues and I get more and more acclimated, there are definitely a few more hurdles I need to clear. Some of them are physical, others are mental.

Mentally, I know there is going to be a hurdle when we get to our first preseason game, just because I haven’t played. Being back out there on the court and trying to just remember what it’s like, what to do, and feel like a basketball player again, that’s going to be a challenge at first. I’ve already gone through it with five-on-five, so I kind of know what to expect.

But when you get hurt like that, there are going to be lingering hesitations. There is nothing that is going to fix the mental hurdle except for me going out there and actually jumping over the hurdle. But I know I am definitely going to be a little anxious going into it. And I feel like I’m just going to have to take the leap, and keep going.

I’ve talked to some of the guys about that already. I’ve never dealt with anything close to this type of injury in my career. I missed a few games here and there, but never close to this long. So I’m glad I have some teammates to turn to. I’ve been talking to Kyrie about it, and he tells me that it’s just about getting back out there and playing. There is nothing like playing the game. You can do all the drills and all this different stuff that you want. But you just have to get out there and play, and it will come back to you.

Physically, from what I am told, the last thing to come is that explosion off my left foot. Being able to push off that left when I’m going right, when I’m going to the rim off of one foot, being able to just confidently jump off of it and finish at the rim, whether that’s a dunk, or a layup, or whatever—that is the last piece. I feel like I can do that off my right, but not necessarily off my left yet. That will come with time and repetition, just like everything else.

But I really like where my game is right now. I feel like I’m shooting the ball really well. I’m still trying to figure out some of the timing and rhythm on pull-up and dribble jumpers. But I do feel a lot better shooting the ball—even better than I did before the injury.

As far as the team goes, I like what I see out of us in these pre-camp practices. Everybody is a little bit more comfortable with each other because they have a whole year under their belt. But even off the court, last year was basically a new team coming together, so you know people a little bit better. We’re more comfortable with each other.

I’ve seen that reflected in the scrimmages and the drills we’ve done already. There’s familiarity with each other that wasn’t there last year during camp. You know what people are going to do in different situations. Even for me, just after watching them play all year, I kind of have a sense of it. I’m still learning what to expect from people being on the court, but having the whole year to watch, I know a little bit more about my teammates, which is good.

THANK YOU ALL

As I reflect on this time—nearly a year now—that I’ve spent trying to get back, I’d be remiss if I didn’t send a shout out to everyone who helped me along the way.

I’ll start with all the physicians and medical staff who worked with me throughout this process, through both surgeries and everything in between, answering any questions I had along the way. Dr. Porter in Indianapolis, who did the second surgery, has been available to me the whole time.

Our Celtics staff has been incredible. Dr. Johann Bilsborough, the director of sports science, was the lead as far as the direction and planning of my rehab went. Ty Yeaton, who is our strength coach, stayed back and worked with me, and helped me through all my strength exercises. Brian Dolan and Steve Mount, the PTs for Boston, worked on me throughout the year.

Scott Morrison, one of the assistant coaches, would work me out and always check in on me when he was in town. Coach Stevens has been a great source of support and encouragement. I’m thankful to all the coaches and my teammates, just for keeping my spirits up, checking in on me, different things like that throughout the year.

When somebody goes down, it’s like a next-man-up mentality, and as a player, a lot of times you are focused on the season. But for the guys to still stop in and say, “What’s up?” or send me a text, to think about me and give me some support while I was down, was really great of them.

A huge thank you to my trainers, who I know I briefly mentioned earlier but really can’t thank enough: Jason Smeathers, who came and stayed with me throughout the year and took me to all my workouts, and then helped train me this summer; and Drew Hanlen for his work during the summer, and driving down from LA to come work me out. A huge thank you to Roy and Bri, and the rest of the team at Exos in San Diego. Really appreciate you all for working around my schedule and being patient with me. And to all the guys I played one-on-one and three-on three with this summer, thank you for working with me and helping me get better.

My girls, Bernie and Charlie don’t really know what is going on, so I just would thank them for being them. And then the biggest thank you goes to Robyn. She spent so much time and energy taking care of me, and mentally being there for me to talk to, or to keep my spirits up, or to yell at me when I was down, telling me to get over myself. That was very, very important, so the biggest thank you goes to her.

Finally, to the fans. Celtics fans: I’ve only played five minutes of one game for you guys, but the support you’ve given me along this journey has pushed me more than you realize. It’s helped to pick me up on those days when I didn’t want to go to rehab, or wake up at 4 a.m. to get to work.

I’m so excited for this season coming up for myself, and for us as a team. More than anything, I’m excited to help us raise another banner. That is the reason why I came to Boston. I felt like this was where I could help win a championship.

I am just really excited to do whatever I can to help us win.

That’s the goal.

Sidenote: We’ve added some new apparel to the Daddy’s Always Happy store! We’ve got new tees, tanks and hats for purchase now, and remember a portion of the proceeds goes to support Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. So get your new gear here

MEET ME & GIVE BACK

Before I go, I have to tell you guys about an event I have coming up tomorrow! Saturday, (September 22nd) in Boston.

I’ve got to give Robyn the credit on this. She is really really great at this type of stuff, and she has organized a drive for school supplies at the Randolph Community Middle School this Saturday from 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM.

A lot of kids are going back to school this month, and there are just so many people that can’t afford basic school supplies. We both remember how excited we used to get when we went to school, about getting all new supplies, but I know I took for granted how much that stuff cost my parents. So we want to just give back a little bit.

We think it would be great for people to take the time out, and join Robyn and I in donating some supplies to people that aren’t as fortunate, those things that you take for granted when you go to school. So we can help these kids have that feeling. I think it’s really cool if you can do that.

There are some great prizes for the top donors, including autographed jerseys, tickets to a regular season home game, and for the top donor, tickets to a game where you’ll get to meet me and watch warm-ups courtside. And the first 250 donors who donate 20 or more items will receive a photo signed by me!

We’re collecting everything from No. 2 pencils, pocket folders and spiral notebooks to USB drives, scientific calculators and headphones.

Go to Celtics.com/HaywardDrive for more details, including a full list of supplies being collected.

Can’t wait to see everyone there!