Hayward gives Celtics a boost on defense, too


Hayward gives Celtics a boost on defense, too

NEWPORT, R.I. – The praise doled out on Gordon Hayward by Al Horford earlier this week was predictable.

“Gordon is a guy that really does it all,” Horford said. “He really shoots the ball extremely well.”

Horford would go on to show some love to Hayward’s passing ability and then he begins to praise … Hayward’s defense?

“Probably the biggest thing that always impressed me about Gordon is his defense,” said Horford who added, “I don’t think people talk about that enough.”


He’s right.

Because even though he played for a Utah Jazz team that ranked among the league’s best defensively last season, much of that credit was given to Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who was runner-up for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award which went to Golden State’s Draymond Green.

But when you start to look at the numbers, the Celtics appear to be getting more than a 20-point scorer in Hayward, whose play last season earned him his first All-Star appearance.

When it comes to Hayward, his 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds – both career highs – are often the first stats cited when talking about his breakout play last season.

But he also set personal bests in offensive (109.5) and defensive rating (102.4) which led to a career-best net rating of +7.1.

Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry worked with Hayward as an assistant coach at Butler when the 6-foot-8 Hayward helped lead the school to a pair of national runner-up finishes.

In those two seasons, the Bulldogs were one of the top defensive teams in the NCAA.

In 2009, Butler opponents averaged 58.7 points per game which put the Bulldogs sixth in the NCAA in scoring defense.

They followed that up by allowing 59.4 points in 2010 which ranked eighth in the nation.

“The one thing about him, being with Brad (Stevens) in college, we played a defensive-minded system,” Shrewsberry told CSNNE.com. “And Gordon played for a really great high school coach. That stuff was really built into him, kind of naturally. And he’s got some gifts kind of naturally. He has long arms, he’s smart, he can anticipate really well.”

There are a number of NBA players who have experienced Hayward’s defense, including LeBron James back in 2014 and more recently, Houston’s James Harden.

And while those are the kind of plays that certainly find a home on the highlight reel for that night, Hayward has shown himself to be a more consistent defender than he’s given credit for.

According to NBA.com/stats, players defended by Hayward shot 3.8 percent less from the field with him defending them on 2-pointers, and 2.2 percent less when he was defending them on 3-point attempts.

Hayward is thankful for the praise, but doesn’t give it too much thought.

“I don’t really focus too much on what other people say about my game. If they overlook (my defense), they overlook it,” Hayward said. “I know I have to be a better defender. A lot of that is just a focus and mindset-type of thing. I know that defensively we’re going to need to be really good to be successful.”

And Hayward will be part of that process; a bigger part of it than most anticipated.

“People don’t see his defensive strengths,” Horford said. “I feel like he’s going to make us better in that regard.”


Celtics lift spirits, and get theirs lifted, in visit to Boston Children's Hospital


Celtics lift spirits, and get theirs lifted, in visit to Boston Children's Hospital

BOSTON -- Marcus Morris has been bothered by left knee soreness that continues to limit his availability for the Celtics. 
But as much as it hurts Morris to not be able to play with his teammates, he knows all too well just how blessed he is in life. 
Morris was among the C's players participating Thursday in the team's annual trip to Boston Children's Hospital, where they put quite a few smiles on the faces of children who -- as Morris and others were quick to acknowledge -- are dealing with real challenges and adversity that trump any bumps, bruises and setbacks on the basketball court they might be experiencing.
"For us to get a chance to come over for an afternoon, it's something that  . . . it's one of my favorite places to be," said coach Brad Stevens. "Our team would echo that."

Especially Morris, who, along with his twin brother Markieff Morris, recently spent about $6,000 to pay off the remaining balance on gifts put on layaway at a Walmart in their hometown of Philadelphia. 

"It's the least I can do," Morris told NBC Sports Boston. "My mom, she's got a big heart, just trying to find something different to do. I remember when I was a kid, we used to have so much stuff on layaway and we would get it off like, two days before Christmas. So, I just tried to surprise some people, take care of some layaways."
But as we've seen in the past with the Celtics and Boston Children's Hospital, the giving of their time to sit and talk with young patients, share stories and -- in the case of Marcus Smart -- develop life-long bonds with patients, is priceless. 
In October, Smart was named the recipient of the New England Baptist Hospital's Community Champions Award in part for the time he has spent at local hospitals that have formed friendships that remain just as strong today. 
During his acceptance speech, he brought the packed capacity crowd to near tears detailing his involvement with ill family members and how that has shaped his interactions and friendships with some of the hospitalized youngsters.
For Smart, whose older brother Todd died of cancer in 2004, there's a connection that goes beyond the holiday season that he feels when gets a chance to spend time with the kids at Boston Children's Hospital and their family members. 
"I have a special connection with these kids here," Smart acknowledged. "Growing up, I went through what some of these kids go through and their families. I understand . . . it's hard to open up to somebody. I know for the kids, it means a lot for us to be here."
Although Jayson Tatum is only a rookie, he said today was his second trip visiting the hospital as a Celtic, a reminder that this is part of what being a member of this organization is all about. 
"I think it's great that we use our platform, to spend time with these kids to take their minds off of what they're going through" Tatum said. "Even for a couple of hours."


Garnett: Celtics are 'a force to be reckoned with'


Garnett: Celtics are 'a force to be reckoned with'

In an interview with Vice Sports, retired NBA star Kevin Garnett said that the Celtics and Cavaliers are set to become must-see TV. 

Garnett, who won the lone NBA title of his career with the Celtics in 2008, said he is impressed by how Boston has responded to the loss of Gordon Hayward in the season opener. The C’s sit first in the Eastern Conference with a 24-6 record, while Cleveland sits second at 20-8. 
“When you see how they’ve rallied around Hayward’s injury and been able to put games together, hell yeah they’re gonna be a force to be reckoned with in the end, and I think it’s gonna be Cleveland and Boston in the Conference Finals to be able to dictate who represents the East,” Garnett said of the Celtics. “And I think it’s gonna be one to where it’s unprecedented. And I don’t think we can all guess. I think it’s just gonna be one where we gotta sit back and enjoy it.
“But I’m not shocked. I’m very proud because I come from that same pedigree...I like how that team is built up. Obviously the head of the snake is Kyrie, and he’s leading them by example and I love it, and the dynamic seems to be cool, but I love more the progression of the younger guys, having a chance to play in real games, real experiences. No practice will ever give you that, so the fact that they’re growing up before our eyes is something special and I think we all need to have our eyes pinned to the television and to the season, with their progression”

The Cavs beat the C’s in the season opener, which remains the lone meeting between the teams this season. They’ll next face each other Jan. 3 at TD Garden.