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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics open training camp with different formula for success

Celtics open training camp with different formula for success

CANTON, Mass. -- Brad Stevens had a plan for how to use Gordon Hayward a year ago, a plan that had to be shelved when Hayward suffered a season-ending ankle injury just five minutes into the season opener.

Hayward is back, healthy as ever.

And that plan?

While it will certainly be implemented on some level, the calculus for this team has changed significantly since then.

Jayson Tatum was a nervous rookie trying to fit in at this point last year.

Today, he’s one of the top young players in the NBA who appears to be an all-star in the making.

MORE CELTICS

Jaylen Brown was a confident second-year player getting his first shot at major minutes.

Today, he comes into camp as the team’s second-leading scorer from a year ago and is poised to be even more impactful having spent time this summer honing his offensive repertoire under the watchful eye of Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady.

Did we mention Kyrie Irving’s back?

Ditto for his backup Terry Rozier who filled in admirably for Irving in the playoffs last season to establish his value as yet another up-and-comer who is poised for a grander role this season.

It is the kind of problem that any coach in the NBA -- or any league for that matter -- would love to have.

But it is an issue, one that will sort itself out beginning today with the first of two-a-day practices this morning.

MORE CELTICS

“We understand what’s in front of us,” said Al Horford. “My mindset right now, I just want (the first practice) to get here so we can get to it in practice. Practice is going to be … we’re gonna get after it. It’s going to be competitive. I’m excited. Last year was exciting. We got after it pretty good. This year I think it’s going to be even more.”

A year ago, there was a great amount of unfamiliarity with only four players back from the previous season.

But there will not be any getting-to-know-you concerns at the start of this training camp as the Celtics welcome back most of last year’s squad while adding Brad Wanamaker and first-round pick Robert Williams to the roster.

There has been considerable talk among the players and coaches about the highly intense pick-up games players began to partake in shortly after returning to town earlier this month.

“Our pick-up (games) have been unbelievable,” said Kyrie Irving. “If any cameras got a shot in there ... this is pretty close to (an NBA) game.”

Maybe in terms of talent, but Stevens has a different take on those pick-up games he has seen.

MORE CELTICS

“Talk to any coach, pick-up is not exactly the most exciting thing,” Stevens said. “Because I’m looking at the habits we need to build on the defensive end of the floor. And how the different things … we have a long way to go. That being said, we have a lot of really good players.”

How that talent meshes will ultimately determine how close this team will come to meeting its potential which begins today with the first practice.

No one expects the Celtics to be playing championship-caliber ball on the first day.

More than anything else, it’s the first step towards establishing the team’s foundation for the season.

Once that is established it becomes a matter of steady growth, the kind that involves improvement among the veterans as well as the team’s youngsters which would be akin to what we saw last season.

“Everybody has ownership in this,” Stevens said. “The young guys getting better, growing and showing new things, is a good thing. It’s a responsibility of all of us, that everybody is heading in that direction.”

And that process begins with the first day of practice today and maybe just as important, the first step towards competing for Banner 18.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE