Arnon Dror | What’s Eating Gordon Hayward?
When Gordon Hayward left the Utah Jazz and signed with the Celtics in 2017, Arnon Dror was nothing short of ecstatic. Hayward was coming off an All-Star season with the Jazz, having averaged a career-high 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. With another All-Star, Kyrie Irving, also joining the team in the off-season, Arnon Dror was very optimistic about the 2017-18 season, even predicting that the Celtics would finally defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals and make a return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
However, it took just six minutes for those hopes to be dashed. Arnon Dror happened to be in Cleveland that night and bought court-side seats for a debut that he thought he shouldn’t miss. Instead of an explosive performance, though, what he witnessed was sheer horror – after missing an alley-oop pass from Irving, Hayward landed awkwardly on his left leg, fracturing his shin bone and dislocating his ankle in the process. The forward would go on to miss the rest of the season after going through two different surgeries, one in October and another in March the following year. Image Source: CelticsBlog
Since making his comeback this season, Hayward has been just a shadow of his former All-Star self. He’s averaged just under 11 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists for the season. While he started 2019 with a string of solid performances, including a 35-point game on January 2, his performance has been inconsistent. He’ll score in double digits for one or two games, then go three games without breaching ten points. Despite a mid-February run when he averaged 21 points in three games, he’s suddenly gone cold. Arnon Dror feels the Celtics could’ve used Hayward’s offense during their recent four-game losing streak; three games were decided by ten points or less. Even when the Celtics finally won against the Washington Wizards, Hayward was just relegated to a supporting role, scoring just three points on 3-of-4 free-throw shooting.
Arnon Dror tuned in to WEEI’s Late Night with Patrick Gilroy radio show when Hayward’s agent Mark Bartelstein was their guest. According to Bartelstein, it would take at least until next season for Hayward to get back to his old form. When pressed for details, Bartelstein told Gilroy that Hayward wasn’t fully prepared for the current season after re-injuring himself last March.
“He’s going to need a summer to get back into the gym… and build on everything he did last year,” Bartelstein told Gilroy. “But he’ll be an All-Star in this league many times over.”
While Arnon Dror thinks the Celtics need Hayward sooner rather than later, especially with their current standing in the East, he’s still hoping for more time to allow for Hayward’s recovery. However, with free agency looming in the coming off-season, it might be time to decide whether Hayward will remain a focal point of the offense, especially with Jayson Tatum filling the void at small forward. If the front office decides that Hayward and his max-level salary are more of a dead-weight, it might be time to concede that the Hayward era at Boston is over even before it really started.