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.”


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

1:13 - The Celtics came away with a 105-100 win in Portland on Friday night. Find out why Chris Mannix is calling this the best Celtics win of the season.

6:05 - Mannix discusses details about Kyrie Irving’s ‘minimally invasive’ procedure on his knee and what his level of concern is with A. Sherrod Blakely and Gary Tanguay.

10:03 - Michael Holley and Tom Curran discuss what NFL players, including Devin McCourty, are doing beyond the gridiron by being active in criminal justice reform discussions held at Harvard this week.



Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

When you think about Marcus Morris these days, big-time scoring immediately comes to mind. 

But in Boston’s 105-100 comeback win over Portland, Morris’ contributions went beyond the game-high 30 points he dropped on the Blazers.

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“Coach (Brad Stevens) is doing a great job of getting me the ball in my spots and my teammates are finding me,” Morris told reporters after the win. “And I’m just coming through.”

He’s providing strong play and a tremendous presence at both ends of the floor which has been critical to the team navigating some choppy waters with a number of regular rotation players – namely Kyrie Irving – out with injuries.

“One thing is, he’s healthy,” said Boston’s Al Horford, referring to the sore knee that limited Morris earlier this season and at times forced him to miss games. “And the other is, he’s just more confident, he’s playing very assertive. He’s playing great right now, in a really good rhythm.”

Said Stevens: “That’s been him (Morris). As he’s continued to feel better; I think physically he’s felt as good as he’s felt. He’s comfortable in our system and we need him to score. If you’re a basketball player and your job is to score, that’s a pretty good job.”

And it’s one that even with all the injuries Boston has played through, few envisioned him being such an integral part of the offense. 

Morris’ calling card prior to arriving in Boston was his defense. 

But Morris has made it known that his focus on the floor is to be as complete a player as possible.

“I’m not trying to just limit myself to just being that scorer,” Morris said. “Also, on the defensive end I think I’m bringing it; my defense has gotten a lot better, especially my on-the-ball defense. I’m trying to be that all-around player and not just an offensive player … but I can score.”