Celtics

Hayward’s goal this season? 'Win the whole thing'

Hayward’s goal this season? 'Win the whole thing'

CAMBRIDGE – There’s a clear an undeniable finish line for Gordon Hayward as he continues down the road to recovery.

Hayward, who was lost for all of last season following a gruesome left ankle injury five minutes into the season opener at Cleveland, expects to be back on the floor playing 5-on-5 basketball next month.

“I’m just about full speed,” said Hayward who was in town as part of a Comcast preview of Activision’s “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” video game, which will be out October 12. “And as with everything, see how my ankle reacts to that. So, I’ll go and test it out and see where it is. I feel a lot better after the second surgery. I’m excited to get back out on the court.”

Here’s more from an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with Hayward who is a big-time gamer and a really nice guy, but showed absolutely no mercy in blasting my ass to smithereens repeatedly in Black Ops 4 on Thursday night.

HAYWARD ON THE SECOND SURGERY …

“Everything happened so fast. Literally, I did a test and found out … and the next five minutes he said we should probably get the plate out. Scheduled it (surgery) for later that night. It was fast. I had no time to think about it.

MORE HAYWARD ON THE SECOND SURGERY …

“It was really good. After that surgery, my ankle felt tons better immediately afterwards. I kind of set my sights and moved forward.”

HAYWARD ON MARCUS SMART’S RETURN …

“We’re running it back. We got just about everybody back and that’s really exciting for me. I had a front row seat to all the games. I had a chance to be around the guys. I didn’t get a chance to be on the court. For me to be able to play with them next year … Marcus Smart brings so much stuff to the table for us. He’s a winner. It’ll be fun to play with all those guys next year.”

HAYWARD ON THE EXPECTATIONS WITH NO LEBRON JAMES IN THE EAST AND SO MANY KEY CELTICS, INCLUDING HIMSELF, BACK …

“We’re going to try to win the whole thing. That’s what our goal is; that’s where our goal should be. We have the talent to do it. I think for us, it’s … hopefully we keep everybody healthy. For me, I’m going to be focused on training camp, getting through that first practice. It’s been so long for me to even be out on the court. I’m very excited about where we can go next year.

HAYWARD ON REGULAR SEASON GAMES HE’S LOOKING FORWARD TO PLAYING …

“For me, just everybody. It seems like forever since I played. The NBA has shifted again with guys going different places. I’m excited to play everybody.”

ON KAWHI LEONARD IN TORONTO …

“We were all waiting to see what was going to happen with that; it’s been a wild story. He’s going to make them a better team. They lose a guy in DeMar (DeRozan) who is extremely talented and get another guy in Kawhi who is talented too. They’re gonna be a little bit different. There are other teams in the East that are going to take a steps (forward) with more experience, some of the younger teams will be better. Everyone is writing the East off, but I think it’ll be a tough East.”

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Kyrie Irving after 1-4 road trip: 'We're not as good as we think we are'

Kyrie Irving after 1-4 road trip: 'We're not as good as we think we are'

Kyrie Irving said he will not panic over the Boston Celtics’ uneven start to the 2018-19 season but, echoing what coach Brad Stevens has said multiple times this year, the All-Star point guard acknowledged that the Celtics are not as good as they believe they are.


"We needed this [poor road trip]. We’re not as good as we think we are,” Irving said after the Celtics’ erased a 21-point deficit but couldn’t cap their comeback while falling to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night. 

"That’s really what it comes down to. I said it at the beginning of the season: The excitement is just done. It’s real basketball now so it’s not just about the potential of the team or where we’ll be at the end of the season. It’s right now, and taking care of what presently is in front of us. 

"We have challenges, we have barriers to get over as a team [and] individually. I’m going to be the most patient out of everyone. I’m not going to get too frazzled, too high or too low or anything like that. It’s a long season. I just understand that, for us to be special, we just have to get through some challenges.”

The Celtics turned in another first-half dud in Portland, digging themselves a monster hole that required a furious second-half surge. Unlike in Phoenix, where Boston stole its only win of the trip in overtime against a basement-dweller, Boston could not get over the hump in Portland.

As Stevens tried to absorb some of the blame for Boston’s inconsistent play, Irving called on Boston players to come together to figure out what’s ailing them during a  7-6 start to the new season.

"It takes a collective effort,” said Irving. "Until we all get on the same page with that, we’re gonna have lulls. … We could blame anybody in this locker room for one thing or another. But I think, collectively, our responsibility is just to collectively be on the right page and understand that.”

Irving tried to put into words the frustration that Boston has obvious talent but hasn’t been able to maximize it yet.

"When we come out here and play, it’s not anything different than other teams playing at a higher effort level than we are. And it comes to getting punched in the mouth a few times and then we come out and clearly we outmatch teams at dang near every position,” said Irving. "We have a lot of good players. And when I say, ‘outmatch,' I mean in terms of the groups we have out there we pretty much have a mismatch every time out there down the floor. So it comes with discipline. It comes with understanding. It comes with experience of just being on a team like this.

"We can’t have empty possessions, so whoever is shooting the shot, if they feel like it’s a great shot, then we all have to feel comfortable with it. I think it just comes with, just some experience. Looking at this locker room, me being in my eighth year and being a ‘veteran’ as well as Al [Horford] and [Aron] Baynes. Right now I think it would be nice if we had someone that was a 15-year vet, a 14-year vet that could kind of help us race along the regular season and understand it’s a long marathon rather than just a full-on sprint, when you want to play, when you want to do what you want to do.”

Boston’s funk comes as East rivals Toronto (12-1) and Milwaukee (10-3) have exploded out of the gates. Over the weekend, Philadelphia traded for Jimmy Butler, infusing a veteran talent onto a young roster and announcing that the 76ers would not be content to wait another year to be a legitimate contender.

The Celtics, the presumed favorite to sit atop the East after LeBron James took his talents to Hollywood, will endure a long cross-country flight back to Boston on Monday while trying to wrap their heads around why they can’t put together 48 minutes of consistent basketball.

"It’s all about attitude and effort,” said Irving. "That’s all it is.”

Stevens sounded hesitant to make wholesale changes given how his team has played well in spurts this season. And yet it’s hard not to wonder if the team has to do something to shake it from the early season funk.

For now, Stevens tried to put the blame on himself.

"You find your flow by making the next right play and playing hard, that’s it. When you’re in the game, you have a job to do on that possession, you do it,” said Stevens. “Then, if you do it really well over and over again, you have a good team. We’re not there yet and so that, to me, is well-coached teams get there; we’re not a well-coached team right now, that’s pretty obvious.”

Celtics players said that not one single player — or coach -- deserved blame for this funk.

“Everybody plays a part, but there’s only so much Brad can do,” said Jayson Tatum, who matched his career high with 27 points in Portland. "We have to go out there, hit shots, follow the game plan, and stop guys from scoring. There’s only so much he can do from the sideline.”


Could this road trip actually help the team, as Irving suggested?

“It probably will help us, the reality check that we might not be as good as everybody said we are at this moment, so we gotta get back home,” said Tatum. "I know everybody wants to go back home, and we need to figure some things out.”

And, if the Celtics need a kick in the pants, they’ve got guys in the locker room who are willing to do that as well.

"Marcus Smart was telling us after the game that there’s no more excuses,” said Horford. "We need to be better.”

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Kyrie Irving: We are not as good as we think we are

Kyrie Irving: We are not as good as we think we are

Kyrie Irving says that the Celtics aren't as good as they think and they now need to get through these challenges.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE