Gordon Hayward is showing expected rust on both ends of the court

We all should have expected this. I certainly did. There is so much fine-tuning involved in professional basketball, no one should expect a player to return after a year's absence and perform like a Swiss watch.

Gordon Hayward has played in three pre-season games thus far. The left ankle looks fine, and that is great news. Actually, there is no bad news here. Hayward informed the fans that his play would most likely be a bit shaky early-on, and of course it would be. Gordon's game is one of finesse, and that makes for a more troublesome comeback.

On the offensive end, Hayward is 25% from the field, 10% on 3-pointers and 71% from the foul line. Those are not Gordon-type percentages - nor should we expect them to be - not so soon.

With all due respect to A. Sherrod Blakely, lack of court awareness IS rust. Hayward did go through some virtual reality rehab to lessen this issue, but it certainly would not be a total fix. The reality is not truly real. It is merely virtual. Get on the court in front of thousands of noisy fans with 10 moving, thinking, reacting parts - and you quickly come back to true reality.

Gordon said it best via his blog:

Mentally, I know there is going to be a hurdle when we get to our first preseason game, just because I haven’t played. Being back out there on the court and trying to just remember what it’s like, what to do, and feel like a basketball player again, that’s going to be a challenge at first. I’ve already gone through it with five-on-five, so I kind of know what to expect.

Gordon needs some time, and we need patience. When he gets his feel-for-the-game totally back, expect to see that Swiss watch back in action on the hardwood. The physical damage has been repaired - the mental acclimation may take a bit longer.

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Photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports