Gordon Hayward

Bean: With Warriors on tap, I finally miss Gordon Hayward

Bean: With Warriors on tap, I finally miss Gordon Hayward

Kyrie. KD. Steph. Goatford. Draymond. President Jaylen. 2018 NBA Finals MVP Jayson Tatum. So many stars will play Thursday night. 

Yet I’m thinking about Gordon Hayward. For the first time since the shock of his disgusting ankle injury wore off, I’m actually pissed the Celtics don’t have him. 

This, of course, is all about the Warriors game. Thursday night matches the best team in the East against the best team in the, well, world. Both teams will be on lengthy win streaks, and it will be impossible to pick who should be gunning for whom more: the hottest team in the league trying to beat the defending champions or the defending champions trying to shut up the NBA’s hot new thing. Either way, it doesn’t quite feel the same without the Celtics being able to throw absolutely everything they have at Golden State. 

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If that sounds like an excuse, it is. The Warriors didn’t cry about not having Kevin Durant when the Celtics beat them last year because the Warriors are the better team. Durant not being there was part of what made the game winnable for the Celtics. 

But if Golden State ekes out a 101-96 win Thursday night at the Garden? You bet your bippy I’ll be whining about Hayward. So should you. In fact, call up one of the radio shows and join the discussion about how sick the Celtics are going to be next year once they *do* have Hayward, because that conversation will for sure be happening. Adding a scorer who averages 20 points a night to a team that shows it can maybe hang with Golden State? Gahdamn. 

Make no mistake: The magic of this team has in large part been a direct result of Hayward’s absence. Tatum has been a starter and a terrific one at that. Kyrie has had to take over games late by himself. Maybe the latter still happens with Hayward on the floor, but the former certainly doesn’t, and next season’s team will be better for it. 

The immediate returns on Tatum, who would be coming off the bench if Hayward wasn’t lost for the season, have been terrific. The extent of his offensive growing pains have been minimal — really, it’s him not finishing as well at the rim as he probably will. Other than that? Stud city: 14 points a night, 50 percent from the field and 49 percent on threes. Also, dope at rebounding. God, Jayson Tatum rules. 

So, in the weirdest way, the argument could be made that Hayward’s absence has actually made the Celtics more exciting given that such production is coming from a 19-year-old. Yet nobody should mistake an outstanding start to the season as an indication that the Celtics are that much better than we thought they’d be. 

Their path is probably the same as it was: They’ll probably be the No. 1 seed in the East due to Cleveland’s various issues, they’ll reach the Eastern Conference finals and maybe even win. They won’t beat the Warriors in a seven-game series, just like they weren’t going to even if they had Hayward. 

But in a regular-season meeting in mid-November? Thursday will test just how good the NBA’s hottest team actually is. It should be a great game as is. But for a team that has found a way for every night for over a month now, the task of facing the league’s best might finally require Hayward, the player a lot of Celtics fans might not realize how much they miss. 

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Blakely: Didn't take long for Celtics to produce their ID

Blakely: Didn't take long for Celtics to produce their ID

BOSTON – When it comes to NBA teams finding an identity, it’s a process that often takes months to come to fruition.
 
Still, much like most of what Celtics coach Brad Stevens has accomplished in Boston, that too seems to be ahead of schedule.

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We’re not even a full month into the season and it’s clear as day what this team’s identity is. It can be summed up in just five words: Get it done. No excuses.
 
You hear teams echo a similar sentiment but seldom do you see it play out as often as it has with this Celtics team that's riding a league-best 12-game winning streak coming into Tuesday’s game in Brooklyn.
 
To put their run in perspective, no team in the NBA this season has been able to string more than six consecutive wins together.
 
Now, if Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were around for every game, the fast start wouldn’t be totally shocking.
 
But here’s the thing.
 
Boston’s Big Three?
 
They have played less than five minutes together...ALL SEASON!
 
Yet, here are the Celtics with the best record in the NBA, doing so without their best players for the bulk of the season thus far.
 
Having that kind of success involves more than just knowing the game plan.
 
You have to know you; know your teammates and most important, know what it takes for you all to be successful and win.
 
For many, that becomes a season-long endeavor.
 
For the Celtics, they got it done in less than a month.
 
Having an identity not only benefits the Celtics in terms of preparing for opponents and how they play in general, but it also breeds a mindset that provides a blanket of confidence in the stormy moments of in games.
 
Look back at Sunday’s 95-94 win over Toronto.
 
Boston spent most of that game playing from behind.
 
And once they gained the lead and had it in the final minute of play, they withstood a couple of setbacks that could have potentially crushed a meeker-minded team.
 
Leading 95-92, an Al Horford turnover with 58.9 seconds to play led to a pair of free throws for O.G. Anunoby to make it a one-point game with 56 seconds to play.
 
Jayson Tatum secured a rebound with 13.4 seconds to play, seemingly securing the win only for Tatum to be called for an offensive foul when his elbow appeared to have grazed the face of Toronto’s Fred VanVleet.
 
Toronto had one more chance to score, but DeMar DeRozan’s contested jumper against Jaylen Brown grazed the front of the rim. They had one more shot to win after that as the ball fell into the hands of Serge Ibaka, but he could not control it cleanly and threw up an off-balance shot at the rim that rolled out and was rebounded by Marcus Smart.
 
Game over.
 
It was a frantic scene in the closing seconds, but the Celtics were a demure bunch, seemingly unfazed by the moment, unapologetic about having Teflon-tough faith that they will find a way to win regardless of who the opponent is or who they have available to play.
 
“It was a good game, but we felt we were going to win all along,” Boston’s Daniel Theis told NBC Sports Boston. “We believe in each other; that we can beat anybody if we play our game.”
 
That being said, Theis is no different than most Celtic fans.
 
“I can’t wait until we have everybody healthy to play,” he said. “We’re good now. If we have everybody...we’re really, really good.”
 
But until then, they will do what all really good teams do and that’s lean on who they have and embrace their identity.
 
Get it done. No excuses.

Danny Ainge tweets picture of Gordon Hayward 'putting in the work'

Danny Ainge tweets picture of Gordon Hayward 'putting in the work'

Ankle surgery can't keep Gordon Hayward off the basketball court.

Hayward said in a blog post last week that he isn't expecting to return this season, but that isn't stopping him from putting up shots from a chair. Danny Ainge tweeted a picture of Hayward in action on Sunday night.

Medical officials have told Hayward that a full and complete recovery is likely.