BURLINGTON, Mass. — It’s taken two years, but Gordon Hayward is finally able to prepare for an NBA season like he wants.
Hayward spent last summer recovering from a second ankle surgery that robbed him of real workouts. He wasn’t able to play 5-on-5 basketball until the end of September, but this year he’s been able to get back to his normal workouts.
“That’s been really nice, being able to train exactly how I’m used to training, not having to worry about doing stuff for only 10 minutes or only doing certain amount of reps,” Hayward said at the unveiling of a new basketball court for a family in Burlington. “I don’t have to worry about surgery or anything, too, so it’s been really good from that standpoint.”
Hayward chose to stay in Boston rather than train somewhere else like his offseason home in San Diego.
“(I) got a chance to enjoy the beautiful facility we have and really utilize all of it and work with the staff and it’s been a great summer,” Hayward said. “It was just important for me to stay here and work with the staff. They kind of knew exactly where I was at after the season and I wanted to build off of that and also work with the coaches and get ready for the upcoming year.”
Hayward is a soft-spoken guy who rarely veers off script when answering the media’s questions. One of the narratives in the immediate aftermath of a disappointing Boston Celtics season was how some felt Hayward was being forced into the rotation at the expense of players who were healthier and better at that moment. Hayward didn’t bring that up as motivation, but there is an obvious importance to him that the storyline not resurface this season.
“You can tell he’s pretty dialed in,” Brad Stevens told reporters earlier this summer. “You can tell, he started a little earlier than he does normally, and he’s been going early in the mornings. You better be an early rise to catch him walking out the door, let alone walking in it. He gets up there and he gets his work done.”
It was clear earlier last season that confidence was an issue for Hayward. As his body grew healthier, his mind did as well. There were moments where he seemed to forget about this ankle and whatever other issues were weighing him down and he became, as some dubbed him, “Old G.”
Now, Hayward’s goal is to make “Old G” a regular thing, and it starts by regaining the confidence that made him a Western Conference All-Star.
“Reps is what gives you confidence, so being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle’s feeling, or having to be cautious with it, has been really good, especially for my confidence,” Hayward said. “I think last year was a lot of hoping and not really knowing what was going to happen just because I didn’t have the reps ... going into a summer training as hard as I want to, it’s a lot better for my confidence this year and expectations-wise.”
The departure of Kyrie Irving, in a way, resets those expectations. The Celtics aren’t expected to compete for a championship just yet, which means the guys can go play free without having every loss scrutinized.
For Hayward, it means a chance to start fresh both mentally and physically.
Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters, and Romeo Langford have all been in Boston for most of the summer. Williams and Edwards threw out a first pitch before a Red Sox game at Fenway and joined fellow rookie Tacko Fall at Canobie Lake Park for the Celtics annual MSPCC youth event.
In between the charity work and exploring of their new home, the rookies have managed to work their way into Hayward’s routine.
“Yeah, we’ve been doing some group stuff in the mornings,” Hayward said. “I’m impressed that they’ve been there throughout the summer, but middle of August and they’re all there working and getting out there, so it’s very impressive.”
Getting on a veteran’s good side never hurts, but this group is also impressing Hayward in a different way.
Instagram followers have seen these young Celtics bonding in almost real time, with each appearing in the other’s stories acting like goofballs (a favorite word of Grant Williams). Hayward is enjoying their mix of serious work and youthful fun, even if it is making him feel his age a little.
“It’s weird that I’m past that stage in my career. Now they’re probably looking at me as like the old man with the family,” Hayward said. “I remember being them and kinda thinking the same way, so I’m going to have to try to work my way into their group.”
Medal of Freedom for Bob Cousy
More than 30 years after his last visit to the White House, Bob Cousy will return Thursday so President Trump can present him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The 91-year-old Holy Cross and Celtics basketball legend will be the sole recipient during a ceremony scheduled at the Oval Office. Trump called Cousy in December to inform him that he planned to present him the honor and Cousy received the official notification from the White House last month.
“I’ve thought so much about it,” he said. “For me, it closes my life circle. It’s a completion for me. I will be a happy camper. I’m already the luckiest SOB on the face of the planet and this simply certifies that.”
The medal is the country’s highest civilian award, recognizing those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”