Gordon Hayward making progress - Part 3 - his analysis of teammates
One of the few pluses relative to Gordon Hayward's severe ankle injury was the fact that he has had a great opportunity to view his teammates as an observer only, and that makes the difference. He has been able to view the entire court and the plays and interaction between his fellow Celtics. Here are Gordon's thoughts on his teammates via his blog, GordonHayward20.life:
Marcus Smart is somebody who doesn’t necessarily fill up the stat sheet every single night from a scoring standpoint, but from hustle, from leadership, defensively from scrapping, he can win. He has won multiple games with that alone.
Terry Rozier coming in as a backup guy, with Kyrie going down earlier in the season for a couple of games, did a tremendous job running the show. That play he made the other night — incredible.
And to me, he Shane (Larkin) is doing one of the most difficult things to do in the NBA. To be a third-string type guy — where you don’t necessarily play every single night, but then, when Coach calls on you, you have to be ready to come in and contribute — that’s tough. But he has won games for us with his energy and shot-making off the bench.
Ditto for Daniel Theis, another guy that doesn’t necessarily get consistent minutes. Some games he plays a lot; some games he doesn’t play at all. But every time he comes in, you feel like he is being productive, contributing. He’s just solid every time.
Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris have kind of rotated between starting and not starting, which is also hard to do in the league. But both of them have done a tremendous job.
Of course, Kyrie (Irving) has been incredible, especially his play down the stretch in games, and in the fourth quarter. He seems to have an ability to take over the game. And his finishing around the rim is something that is really special. He routinely makes layups over people.
People don’t understand how difficult it is to make those types of finishes. He can put spins on the ball with either hand, with his body facing whatever direction, over 7-footers, over athletic wings. It doesn’t matter. He has the great shooting ability, being able to shoot threes, and come off screens and hit jumpers and floaters too.
Then you’ve got Al (Horford), who does so many things that don’t even show up on the stat sheet. This year, you are seeing his ability to make plays from the post and the top of the key. He stretches the floor and makes bigs guard him out deep. Then he gives them a shot and goes around them. He can dunk it, but he can also make another play after that drive if he has to, passing back out, which I think is the rare component of his game that sets him apart.
... there are not very many bigs that can shot pick, get to the paint, and make a play for somebody else. That is the really unique part of Al’s game. And even if he doesn’t get the assist, he is the one that got to the paint, and made the play, made the hockey assist.
Jaylen (Brown) is probably one of the better athletes in the league from the wing position. Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve trained every single summer, every single day, to try to put on weight, to try to get to 230, 235 pounds and be strong. Jaylen just turned 21 years old a couple months ago, and is the same exact weight as I am.
He is an incredibly gifted athlete and already has so much talent. He’s able to just glide through the air. And he has been so aggressive this year. He attacks the basket and has the strength to finish.
As far as Jayson (Tatum) goes, he might be as polished of a 19-year-old player as I have ever seen. He doesn’t really have a part of his game, where you think, “Oh, that is something that he just can’t do.” He has shown the ability to do just about anything.
He can come off screens and knock down shots. He can post. He can attack guys off the dribble and get to the rim. And he is shooting at an incredible rate from three, especially for a rookie. He’s really effective on offense in every area.
So the cast and boot are gone. Hayward has been keeping busy watching, analyzing, scouting, and writing. He will be much more physically active now that he can move around unassisted. As the left leg strengthens and regains mobility, his basketball skills will come back more and more each day. Lost muscle returns, as does the muscle memory involved in launching three-pointers, driving to the hoop, catching and jamming alley-oops and threading passes to teammates. His talent and versatility have been missed, particularly lately.
Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC
Photo via Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images