When Gordon Hayward signed with the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2017, he envisioned hearing the roars of the Boston crowd as he was introduced at the TD Garden for the first time. Finally, on Tuesday night, No. 20 got to hear his name shouted by public address announcer Eddie Palladino in front of an excited Celtics crowd.
But before the introductions, a tribute video played on the jumbotron, showing Hayward’s dedication to his recovery after a gruesome injury ended his first season in Boston before it even really began. The video brought back memories for G-Time, but it showed him how far he’s come since last October.
“It brought back a lot of memories, a lot of dark memories and a lot of dark times,” Hayward said, “but to be honest it was cool to see some of the progression. They showed just a little bit of everything of me and then finally being back so I thought that was really well done and it was cool watching it.”
After the video concluded, Hayward awaited his name to called, and when it was, he ran through a gauntlet of his teammates and chest-bumped Marcus Morris in front of a sold-out TD Garden crowd. Then, the lights came on, and it was time to get back to work.
As soon as he took the court, Hayward was back in his element, not worrying about last year’s opener, but rather feeling the excitement of the start of a new season, one in which the Celtics have lofty goals to accomplish.
“It was amazing to be out there on the court again for a regular-season game,” Hayward said. “My adrenaline was definitely pumping those first three or four minutes. I think everybody’s adrenaline was pumping, because it was sloppy at first, but it was great just to be out there. It was a big step for me.”
Once he settled into the game, Hayward made his first shot in his return, a jumper from the right elbow to put the Celtics up 23-21 in the early stages of the second quarter.
Hayward finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds, to go along with a career-high-tying four steals in 25 minutes in a 105-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Tuesday night wasn’t about the stats though. The numbers will come as he settles in with his new teammates and shakes off the rust from missing a full year of basketball.
Hayward is just happy to be back on the court, and he is glad to get his first game back under his belt.
“That was a big step for me mentally,” Hayward said. “It was a big confidence-booster just to finish that first game. Being back out on the court – that was a big hurdle.”
Now, Gordon can return to his normal grind that made him so successful in Utah. He knows it won’t be easy, and that he has plenty of work ahead of him. But, now he can move forward confidently knowing that the injury is behind him.
Hayward has great teammates and great coaches in Boston. That’s why he decided to come play for the Celtics. He won’t have to do everything for this team, and he knows he can rely on them as he continues to find his rhythm after missing a full season.
“Part of it is just having patience and realizing that it’s not all going to come at once,” Hayward admitted. “I think as long as I can do things when I’m out there on the court that can help us get wins, then I’ll be happy.”