BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics are hoping for big things from Gordon Hayward this season, and one of his new teammates is already setting some big expectations for the forward.
Hayward had an up-and-down campaign in 2018-19 as he came back from the gruesome ankle injury that he suffered two years ago. There were some nights that he looked like the Gordon Hayward of old, and he had a fantastic first round playoff series against the Pacers, but there was no real consistency to his game. For every night he looked like he was back to his usual self, there were three nights where you barely knew he was on the floor. It threw the team off from the jump, and though Hayward’s slow return to form wasn’t the main reason the Celtics had such a terrible season, it certainly played a role.
But there is hope that 2019-20 will be much better for Hayward, and in turn, the Celtics. He’s spent just about his entire offseason in Boston, working with the Celtics training staff most mornings and putting in extra time on the practice floor.
New Celtics big man Enes Kanter joined Hayward for his workout on Tuesday, and is convinced we’ll see the All-Star version of Gordon Hayward this upcoming season.
“Gordon Hayward — I think he should definitely start eyeing the All-Star Game,” Kanter told NBC Sports Boston. “He had a very bad injury [but] I see his work ethic, he’s been doing an amazing job.
“I just actually played against him and he looked amazing,” said Kanter. “Very good shape, lot of confidence, and he is comfortable out here.”
Comfort and confidence appeared to be the biggest hurdle for Hayward throughout season. He didn’t seem comfortable in Boston’s starting five to start the year, and his confidence was shot when his jumper wasn’t falling with any kind of consistency.
Kanter believes that will all change when the new season tips off.
“I think last year was a little rough for him but I think this year, man, I see him, he looks strong, he looks in really good shape, and he’s enjoying his time here,” said Kanter. “I played with that dude three and a half years with Utah Jazz. I know the guy, I know how hard he works, how much he is willing to learn, and he makes his teammates better. I’m very excited about him. He should definitely be eyeing the All-Star Game.”
Kanter may just be sticking up for his new teammate, but he did get an up-close look at Hayward’s All-Star season in 2016-17 in Utah, when the forward averaged a career-high 21.9 points per game. Kanter has been pretty vocal since signing with the Celtics this offseason, and this could be his way of giving his new/former teammates a little added confidence heading into the new year.