Rivers, Thibodeau expect smooth adjustment to Boston for Hayward

Rivers, Thibodeau expect smooth adjustment to Boston for Hayward

LAS VEGAS – When you listen to players and coaches whose careers have included a pitstop in Boston, they will collectively tell you the city loves its star athletes. 

And with that love comes expectations of greatness, the kind of greatness that only a select few ever achieve in this town. 

It takes a special kind of talent to weather the sometimes-tumultuous, stormy relationship between fans that comes with being a superstar athlete in Boston, something the newest soon-to-be Celtic Gordon Hayward will learn first-hand. 

Hayward, who agreed to a four-year, $127.8 million contract with the Celtics on the Fourth of July, has never been in a sports vacuum quite like the one he’s walking into. 

An NBA all-star, Hayward was not a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school in Indiana before ultimately signing with nearby Butler University coached by now-Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

And when the Utah Jazz drafted him with the ninth overall pick in 2010, he evolved into a star for one of the league’s smaller market franchises. 

Ain’t nothing small about Boston other than its patience level when it comes to its stars.

Some players can handle that pressure with ease, like David Ortiz or Tom Brady. 

Others like David Price … not so much. 

So I asked a couple of NBA coaches (Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau) who have spent years coaching against Hayward who also have an intimate knowledge of the Boston sports scene, just how they saw Hayward adjusting to his new surroundings and with it, the increased amount of pressure to perform at the highest of levels. 

“He’ll handle that well,” said Rivers, president of basketball operations and head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers who spent nine seasons (2004-2013) as the Celtics’ head coach. “I think he’s really humble. His relationship with Brad (Stevens) will help as well, to channel that. You still have Isaiah (Thomas) there to take some of that pressure away. They’re going to be really good.”

Fandom aside, Hayward will ultimately be judged on his play which was on an all-star level this past season when he averaged 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds, both career highs. 

And for those who have had to coach against him, seeing him head East is a welcomed reprieve. 

“He scores so many different ways,” said Thibodeau, president of basketball operations and head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. “You have to prepare for every situation.”

And even that’s not enough as Thibodeau’s Timberwolves lost three of four meetings against Hayward and the Jazz last season which included the 27-year-old dropping 39 points on Minnesota in late-April shortly before the playoffs. 

“He’s a great catch-and-shoot guy, moves well without the ball, very good off the dribble, very good in pick-and-rolls … he puts enormous pressure on the defense at all times,” said Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant coach (2007-2010) who grew up in New England and attended Salem State just outside of Boston. “His versatility, that’s probably the biggest thing. And he’s unselfish.”

Thibodeau believes the qualities that he brings to the floor as a player will mesh well with the Celtics and the fan base which Thibodeau knows all too well, can be a tough crowd to please. 

“I think the way they (Celtics) play, who he is … I thought it was a great acquisition,” Thibodeau said. “He’ll fit in seamlessly.”

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

© 2018 by The Associated Press