Celtics

MacMullan: The Celtics 'force feeding' Gordon Hayward was the start of their chemistry issues

Kyrie Irving's leadership? Young players not accepting their reduced roles? Not trading for Kawhi Leonard?

Everyone has their take on what really gave the Celtics the most problems during the 2018-19 season, and Jackie MacMullan shared her thoughts on Arbella Early Edition Tuesday night. She cited Brad Stevens 'force feeding' Gordon Hayward to help him come back from his gruesome ankle injury as what started the Celtics' chemistry issues that seemingly plagued the team all year long. 

"You hate to pick on Gordon Hayward because he was coming back from injury and he was doing the best he could, but I really think that’s where it started," she said. "They were force feeding him on his teammates, Brad [Stevens] knew Gordon well, he wanted to get his confidence back.

"I would contend that Brad Stevens would have done that for any player on that roster that had a catastrophic injury, he would want to fill him with that same confidence, but that’s not what happened," MacMullan continued. "He gave the benefit of the doubt over and over to a player that wasn’t ready, to a guy who had history with him, and it rankled that locker room, and it bothered that locker room."

The younger players on the Celtics roster didn't have much of a chance to get a glimpse of how good Hayward was before he fractured his ankle five minutes into his Celtics debut. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown stepped up in a huge way to help Irving lead the Celtics to the second seed in the East, and when Irving was lost for the season just a month before the playoffs began, Brown, Tatum and Terry Rozier went on a run to Game 7of the Eastern Conference Finals. 

It doesn't matter who you are, taking a back seat to someone you think you've shown you're at least at the same level as is difficult to do. And as MacMullan explains, it can lead to conclusions about the motives of someone like Stevens who's calling the shots. 

"I think [the other players] drew conclusions that probably weren’t even fair or accurate, but it doesn’t matter," she said. "If you feel that way, then it’s real."

Now the Celtics are tasked with picking up the pieces from the aftermath of a disaster season. Irving is likely gone, and now it looks like Al Horford is going to sign elsewhere once free agency begins on June 30. 

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