In addressing injury for first time, Hayward says he'll 'lean on' Paul George

In addressing injury for first time, Hayward says he'll 'lean on' Paul George

WALTHAM, Mass. – When Paul George went down with a broken leg injury in Team USA’s intrasquad scrimmage in 2014, Gordon Hayward was in the building.
He saw first-hand how painful such a devastating injury could be, not knowing that just a few years later he too would be at the starting block on the road to recovery following devastatingly painful injury.


And one of the more constant voices in Hayward’s ear since the opening-night injury?
That would be George, now with the Oklahoma City Thunder who will host the Celtics on Friday night.
Hayward, speaking to Boston media on Thursday for the first time since the injury, said George texted him right after the injury.
“Paul and I had a good relationship since we were drafted in the same class,” Hayward said. “I was in the gym when he did what happened to his leg. I know he knows first-hand what it’s like, what’s it gonna take to get back to 100 percent.”
George missed all but six games in the 2014-15 season, a testament to how he attacked his rehab program to do what so few thought was possible and that’s return that season.
Although Hayward said in his blog posting earlier this week that he wasn’t coming back this season, he doesn’t seem quite ready to completely shut the door on a possible late-season return.

“I’m putting zero expectations on myself as far as a timetable [to return],” Hayward said on Thursday. “For me it’s...I want to get better today. Right after this [press conference], I’m going to do some rehab and chair shooting.”
Medical officials have told Hayward that a full and complete recovery is likely.
Still, recovering mentally may be the greater challenge.
And that’s where George comes in.
In their communication with one another, George has stressed the importance of being both physically and mentally back to where he was prior to the injury.
“He’s someone I can lean on because the mental side is what he says is the toughest part,” Hayward said. “If you can’t get out there and play, it doesn’t go as fast as you want it to go. That’s something that’s going to be a challenge.”
Danny Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, has dealt with players in the past who suffered injuries which kept them out for an extended period of time.
While each player has dealt with their own individual injury, there are some common approaches he takes to help them navigate their way down the road to recovery.
“Just keeping them involved with the team and having them feel they’re a part of us,” Ainge told NBC Sports Boston. “It’s easy for them to be distant, just like it is with a player that doesn’t play who is healthy. It’s hard enough keeping a player like that involved. A player that’s injured, not traveling, doing rehab, sometimes and oftentimes away from the team, just keep them feeling like they’re a part of our team.”
The Celtics are in the process of doing those type of things with Gordon.
In addition to shooting while sitting in a chair, Gordon has also involved himself in video study while passing along what he sees to his teammates and the coaching staff.
But Hayward admits there are times when the emotional toll of what happened to him just five minutes into his career as a Celtic.
“Daily I still have negative thoughts,” Hayward said. “It’s hard not to, especially when you watch the games. It’s something I’m trying to work on. I don’t think I would be human if I didn’t have those thoughts.  But there are definitely positive things I can take from this. There’s no reason to continue to sulk and wallow in some self-pity; it happened. You can’t take it back. As much as I want to rewind it and go out the other way on the pin-down, it's something I’m going to have to deal with. Might as well deal with it now.”
And yes, Hayward said he has seen the incident on replay since it happened.
“It’s kind of hard not to see it with the social media we have today,” Hayward said. “The first I saw was a picture of it. I have a lasting image in my mind to begin with. It was just an unfortunate play.”
As tough as it will be, Hayward knows he must move forward with his rehabilitation both physically and mentally with many offering a helping hand or words of encouragement – including Paul George.
“It’s extremely helpful,” Hayward said. “Especially when you go through something, to talk to someone else who has been through the same thing and also come through this successful.”
George, who, like Hayward, is 27, has been selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team in the two seasons since getting hurt.
“Paul is still having a tremendous career and came back better than ever,” Hayward said. “Have someone who’s willing to talk to you about it and willing to take his time to help me out, is big for me.”


Celtics-Magic preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch


Celtics-Magic preview: Boston looks to improve shooting down the stretch

BOSTON – When Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked about what he saw in the team’s newest (10-day) addition Jarell Eddie, his response was, “shooting  . . .  shooting.”

Indeed, shot-making has been the one area of play that has been problematic for the Celtics most of this season.

Boston comes into today’s game against Orlando (13-32) shooting just 44.8 percent from the field which ranks 25th in the NBA.

In the month of January, Boston has been even worse, connecting on just 41.8 percent of their shots which ranks 29th in the league this month.

While the addition of Eddie had more to do with the recent flu bug that has made the rounds throughout the Celtics lineup and the uncertainty a couple days ago surrounding Kyrie Irving’s sore left shoulder (it has improved and he’s expected to play today), adding Eddie speaks to a greater problem -- guys making shots -- that has to be addressed in some capacity sooner or later.

Boston always has the option to pursue a trade. They also have an $8.4 million disabled player exception they can use on free agent players, with the most likely pool of talent that they will choose from consisting of players who would have been bought out by their current teams.

Or there’s raiding the G-League for talent, which is what they did in signing Eddie to a 10-day contract.

Regardless, there’s a growing sense that this team has to add more scoring punch to the mix or at a minimum, improve the overall offensive execution of the roster as it stands now.

“We have to do our stuff better,” Stevens said. “The start of the season it was predictable, losing Gordon (Hayward who suffered a dislocated left ankle injury in the season-opener) and having to adjust. The middle portion of games we were pretty darn good. And then I thought we were reasonable in London, reasonable against New Orleans. But the other three of the last five games, we weren’t very good.”

Boston’s offense should get a boost from Irving’s return to the lineup after missing Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia with a sore left shoulder.

And while it was just one game, Irving understands the challenge that lies ahead in getting Boston’s offense to play better and more consistently.

“We have very unique talents on this team,” Irving said. “When you’re trying to put that together and guys are coming back into the lineup and getting their rhythm still and guys are in and out sometimes … big picture, down the stretch, we’re going to need everyone to be on the same page.”

Marcus Morris has been one of the players who has been in and out of the Celtics lineup because of a sore left knee.

However, the schedule has eased up to where he’ll be able to play more games, for longer stretches.

He comes into today’s game having scored in double figures each of the last three games.

“I’m just trying to get healthy. I know what I can do,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “My confidence is always going to stay high, no matter if I miss or make shots.”

In the last three games, he has averaged 15.0 points while shooting 45.7 percent from the field.

While Morris’ play of late is promising, it doesn’t diminish the concern Boston should have for an offense that for the most part, has been sputtering this season.


Kyrie practices, expected to be back Sunday

Kyrie practices, expected to be back Sunday

WALTHAM, Mass. – Kyrie Irving was able to participate in all of Celtics practice on Saturday and is expected to be back on the floor when the C's host the Orlando Magic on Sunday.

Irving did not play in an 89-80 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday because of soreness in his left shoulder.


He will continue to receive treatments for the shoulder, “but I’m just ready to go back out there and play,” Irving said. “I’ve had a few days to reset and do the things needed to put myself in a great position to go out there and play.”

Irving said earlier that the shoulder had been bothering him for a couple weeks and an overtime loss to New Orleans on Tuesday didn’t help matters.

Still just 25 but recently named to his fifth All-Star team, Irving’s return could not come at a better time for the Celtics.

Boston (34-12) has the best record in the Eastern Conference, but the C's are riding a two-game losing streak, which is only the third time this season they've lost back-to-back games.

Arguably Boston’s biggest issue in the loss to the Sixers was an offense that struggled in several phases.

Not having Irving available certainly made matters worse, but there were a number of elements of play that with Irving or not, coach Brad Stevens recognizes his team must make a significant improvement in if they are to remain among the top teams in the NBA.

Stevens talked extensively after the loss and again on Saturday about the team not playing hard enough on offense.

“I don’t want to take away from the teams we’re playing against. They’re really guarding us hard,” Stevens said. “But we’ve got to execute harder. The one thing that’s pretty obvious in person and when you watch on film, is we just didn’t play hard enough on offense which is kind of unique. That’s the way I felt.”

Irving said there needs to be an increase in emphasis on their offense, which would make the game easier for everyone.

“Our spacing, our cutting … just playing the game kind of within the game, understanding our talents and where we can make the game easier,” Irving said. “We have very unique talents on this team. When you’re trying to put that together and guys are coming back into the lineup and getting their rhythm still and guys are in and out sometimes … big picture, down the stretch, we’re going to need everyone to be on the same page.”