BOSTON – On the road, Utah’s Joel Ingles had dinner last night before with Gordon Hayward, an all-too-familiar routine.
But nothing has been normal or routine about the Jazz and Hayward, not after he left after seven years to sign with the Boston Celtics this summer.
And with tonight’s game being the first time the two teams have squared off since Hayward’s decision, there was indeed a noticeable build-up to it even with Hayward (dislocated left ankle) unable to play.
“It makes it harder for me. I wish I was out there,” said Hayward who suffered his ankle injury in the season-opener at Cleveland on Oct. 17. “It makes it harder just to sit back and watch. This was a game I circled as well. I know they did. In front of my now-home crowd, it would have been a lot of fun.”
Ingles enjoyed his time playing with Hayward in Utah, but says he and the team have moved on and are now focused more on what they can do as a team to improve from one day, one game to the next.
Without Gordon, Ingles says things are “obviously different,” adding, “But I really like who we have and what we have. Nothing really changes for us. We play a very similar style. Obviously different personnel. You draft guys, you sign guys, whatever it is. It’s a little different, but adding all those new pieces is a little bit of an adjusting time we’ve kind of gone through. We’ve had some great games, we’ve had some bad games. At the end of the day, you want to keep evolving, keep getting better and I think we’ve done that. That’s not going to result in wins all the time, but I think in the long run, the long-term for this team it’s gonna really help us.”
And Hayward’s decision, he believes will also pay off for both him and the Celtics.
“I don’t regret anything,” Hayward said. “I unfortunately got injured, but happy to be here in Boston and happy to be part of this team.”