Celtics

Gordon Hayward avoids foul out, takes advantage of time

Gordon Hayward avoids foul out, takes advantage of time

BOSTON — When Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward picked up his fifth personal foul with 1:41 remaining in the first half of Sunday’s exhibition tilt with the Charlotte Hornets, members of the Celtics coaching staff could be seen giving him some playful grief from the sideline.

“There was a small part of me that was hoping he would have fouled out in the first half,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens deadpanned later. “I thought that would have been funny.”

Luckily for Hayward, he avoided a sixth whistle and produced maybe his most encouraging stretch of preseason play early in the third quarter. That included a highlight-worthy chasedown block that earned a standing ovation from the Garden faithful and offered a reminder of Hayward’s potential impact as he works his way back from a fractured ankle.

Playing only his second game in a Celtics uniform inside TD Garden, including the first here in nearly a full year’s time, Hayward finished with 4 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists over 21:15 in Boston’s 115-112 triumph over the Hornets.

But it was the chasedown block that might have been the most signature moment of the night.

Charlotte’s Jeremy Lamb had jumped a pass intended for Hayward and broke out in transition. Jaylen Brown raced back to contest and, even though he overpursued, it forced Lamb to slow up and gather the ball near the free-throw line. That allowed Hayward to race from behind and his right-handed swat sent the ball sailing from near the cylinder to the Charlotte bench.

"I think each time I do something new that I haven’t done, it definitely builds more confidence for me, just from a physical standpoint, knowing my leg is stable and is going to hold up,” said Hayward.

"That was the first time I’ve [had a chasedown block]. So there’s things that I haven’t done yet. I haven’t had to chase down anybody like in practice or anything, so in the game setting there’s definitely things I’m doing for the first time and figuring it back out. So I think if it just happens, that’s a good thing.”

What happened after the block may have been just as remarkable as the swat. A now-off-balanced Hayward landed hard on his surgically repaired left ankle on the baseline, then crashed to the floor, sliding next to Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca in the first row of seats on the baseline. 

As Celtics fans held their breath, Hayward popped right back up, even as both Brown and Charlotte rookie Miles Bridges rushed to help him up. Fans serenaded Hayward with a loud ovation for the block.

"That’s who he is,” said teammate Kyrie Irving. "Not necessarily impressed, I’ve gotten used to seeing it over the years of watching Gordon grow in this league. Seeing him do that, I think it really sparked our team, and I know it felt good for him.”

Irving has gushed about how excited he is to be playing with Hayward again. After the first day of training camp practice last week, Irving noted how he was watching highlights videos of Hayward in anticipation of being back on the court together.

And no one on the Celtics quite knows the mental challenge of coming back from an injury quite like Irving. His advice to Hayward?

"Not to overthink it,” said Irving. "I just don’t really say much to him. I think Gordon is gonna be Gordon. I’m gonna continue to say it: He’s a consummate professional. Obviously he’s coming off the injury but I think he’s doing a great job of working himself back and figuring out the level of play that he needs to play it with our team and where he fits with that, and it’s my job as one of the leaders of the team to continue to give him that confidence. 

"Throwing him some plays here and there just to get him back used to the way he’s used to playing -- in the middle of the floor, in pick-and-roll, making decisions, smart basketball player that’s able to play off the ball, but when he has the ball in his hands, he’s able to make plays for others and himself.”

It was almost certainly by design that the first play of the third quarter featured Hayward attacking the basket out of the pick-and-roll. He produced an and-one layup, his only field goal on a night he finished 1-of-7 shooting.

For the preseason, Hayward has now scored 14 points on 3-of-14 shooting.

"I did feel a little more comfortable out there,” said Hayward. "I think it was great being in front of our own fans for the first time. That was a special feeling for me. Obviously, still have a lot of improve on. I think rust is there, for sure, for me, but it was Game 2 after not playing for a year, so it’ll come back.”

Hayward received a loud ovation when he was introduced during pregame lineups, the roar dwarfing even Irving, who was playing in Boston for the first time since March. After sitting out one of Boston's home preseason game last year, Hayward hadn’t played at the Garden since Boston’s preseason-opener last year.

Hayward has noted how he desires to use the postseason to shake the rust from not playing since the opening night injury in Cleveland. And, fortunately for Hayward, he avoided a sixth foul that would have cut his night shorter and deprived him of the encouraging third-quarter glimpses.

"That’s a speed of the game thing,” Hayward said of his fouls. "Everyone focuses on the offensive end but there’s definitely defensive things, defensive habits that I’ve got to build back up. Being in the right positions, just knowing what they’re going to call, what they’re not going to call how, stuff like that.”

But even Hayward admitted it might have been funny if his night came to a sudden end.

"It definitely would have been funny, for sure,” said Hayward. "I definitely wasn’t trying to foul out. It just kind of happened. It is what it is. It’s all about us solving the process of coming back.”

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NBA trade rumors: Lakers holding best assets for Anthony Davis deal?

NBA trade rumors: Lakers holding best assets for Anthony Davis deal?

The Los Angeles Lakers have yet to find a second superstar to pair with LeBron James, but they at least have an idea of which player they'd like to fill that role in the future.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski dropped an interest nugget about the Lakers' pursuit of New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis during a recent segment with colleague Zach Lowe.

“Here’s the line [the Lakers] have to walk: they’re not going to give away picks and their top young players in some deal that makes them incrementally better this season because they have got to save all those assets for Anthony Davis, a big trade this summer either pre or post free agency," Wojnarowski said. "That's why they looked at players like Trevor Ariza, guys on one-year deals who don't have money going forward. ..."

Wojnarowski later added: "The absolute dream scenario, people talk about (how) they can trade for Anthony Davis or sign a free agent. The dream scenario is they do both.”

Davis likely is going to be a trade target for several teams, and the Boston Celtics are one team that's been linked to the superstar center in many trade rumors in recent years. Even Celtics fans were doing their best to recruit AD to Boston by giving him a rousing ovation during the starting lineup introductions when the Pelicans came to TD Garden last week. 

Davis can be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020 if he declines his 2020-21 player option, but the Pelicans can offer him a super-max contract extension next July. If he declines that extension, the Pelicans will have no choice but to trade him, and that's when the real fun will begin.

At this point, though, the Lakers and Celtics probably are the teams best positioned to trade for Davis. The Lakers have young, talented players such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma to offer New Orleans, while Boston can dangle Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and maybe Jayson Tatum. The C's also could have as many as four 2019 first-round draft picks to pitch. 

The Celtics vs. Lakers rivarly has been fierce on the court, but the next battle might come off the floor if/when Davis becomes available for trade.

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Three under-the-radar areas the Celtics will look to improve upon

Three under-the-radar areas the Celtics will look to improve upon

BOSTON -- Win or lose, the Boston Celtics don’t spend a ton of time dwelling on the past. 

Being an on-to-the-next-game kind of team serves them well right now after their 113-104 loss at Detroit, which snapped their eight-game winning streak. 

So in the spirit of looking ahead, here’s a look at three areas the Celtics will try and shore up between now and their next game which is at home against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

Contesting shots

The Celtics don’t get a ton of blocked shots but consistently rank among the league’s best defensive teams. Why? Because they contest the hell out of shooters, from the perimeter as well as within the paint. This was one of the more glaring areas Boston had more problems in than usual. Against the Pistons, the Celtics contested just 50 of Detroit’s 80 shots from the field, or 62.5 percent. To put that in perspective, during Boston’s winning streak, six of their eight wins involved them having a contested shot percentage better than 73 percent, with the lowest contested shot percentage being .632 against New Orleans on Dec. 10.

Passing game

During their eight-game winning streak, Boston’s passing game was among the best in the NBA.  During the eight-game streak, Boston averaged a 322.1 passes per game which ranked fourth in the league. But the ball didn’t swing around nearly as much against the Pistons. The Celtics had 280 passes against Detroit according to NBA.com/stats, which is more along the lines of their season average (292.7) which ranks 15th in the NBA.

Catch-And-Shoot

This has been one of the bread-and-butter categories for this revived Celtics offense. During the eight-game winning streak, Boston averaged a league-best 39.5 points on catch-and-shoots in addition to 12 made 3’s per game which was also tops in the NBA. Saturday’s loss saw a noticeable drop in this category with the Celtics mustering just 18 points on catch-and-shoots.

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