The Boston Celtics have certainly not played up to their (or most people's) expectations this season. But that's just stating the obvious.
Looking at the roster, the Celtics certainly have the talent to be playing better.
The C's made it to game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals last season without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward.
Logically, most would assume that with both star players back, as well as the young talent that helped power the Celtics' 2017-18 run with another year of experience under their belt, the Celtics would be the team to beat in the East.
But that hasn't been the case. While drama and attitudes have dominated the discussion surrounding the C's struggles—the issues are more nuanced than that. Each player is their own case.
In the case of Gordon Hayward, who was lost to a gruesome injury in the opening minutes of the 2017-18 season, he has simply not been the same.
An article by ESPN's Jackie MacMullen gives Hayward's perspective on his struggles to regain his level of play:
"I was thinking, 'Wow, am I really that slow out there? It's hard. It's embarrassing. You want to be the guy that says, 'I'm strong. I don't need any help.''"
Hayward has reportedly had complications from his injury:
"[His] difficulties were compounded by back woes stemming from atrophied muscles that had not been fired for nearly a year. He received injections to ease the pain, but it further limited his mobility, and further delayed his progress. 'We never felt [that it wasn't] going to work -- [or to get him out of here]', teammate Marcus Smart explained. 'It was more [that we're rushing him.]' Everyone wanted to throw Gordon back out there, but his body wasn't ready to do what we were asking him to do."
MacMullen discusses a team flight where Hayward ended up sitting next to and bonding with rising star Jayson Tatum.
"The two got to talking, not about basketball but about parenthood and food and music. Hayward teased Tatum that he was still just a baby and started calling him 'Little Bro.' That blossoming friendship, Hayward said, can only help their relationship on the court."
Bonding with teammates has been a bit of an issue for Hayward, who was lost to injury just as his first season with the Celtics began, and ended up being away from the team for a long period of time:
"'One of the hardest things about last year was going through the whole injury kind of alone,' [Hayward] said. 'It wasn't necessarily anyone's fault. I had just moved to a new team and was just starting to try and develop relationships with these guys. Then I got hurt, and I was away from the team, and you don't have a chance to put a foundation down.'"
The good news is that Hayward is said to "feel more comfortable driving into the teeth of the defense and exploding off his leg."
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