Since he’s out for the foreseeable future after suffering one of the most gruesome on-court injuries in the history of the NBA, Gordon Hayward has taken on a new role in the Boston Celtics’ organization.
Now able to see the game from a new angle on the bench, Hayward has been tasked with taking on special projects for the team and has paid attention to the small nuances that he didn’t pick up on as a player.
“You can kind of watch in a different light, not like, ‘I wish I was out there,’ ” Hayward told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. “It’s more like, ‘What’s this guy doing to get this open shot? What could this guy do better? What is our team doing to guard this?’ You’re watching it strategically.”
On Friday, Hayward sat with a reporter from the newspaper and watched his Celtics take on the San Antonio Spurs on the road.
Sharing a number of observations with the Globe, he had a ton of praise for rookie Jayson Tatum, who has taken on a major role for the team on both ends of the floor.
“He’s shooting the [expletive] out of the ball. You’re just surprised if he misses right now. But the hardest thing as a rookie is to sustain that. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep it up,” Hayward explained.
Through 29 games, Tatum is averaging 13.8 points and 5.7 rebounds a game over 30.6 minutes. Most notably, he has been incredibly efficient in the process, shooting 50.2 percent from the field and exactly 50.0 percent from three-point range, which actually leads the NBA as of Tuesday night.
“Usually you hit a wall, but we’ll see if he hits it. He’s shooting really well, and they’re good shots for him, too, because our offense creates such good shots. He’s not taking pull-up threes and Steph Curry threes,” Hayward raved.
But, Tatum isn’t just a pure shooter.
“Definitely one of the most polished rookies offensively that’s come in the league in a while. He can do everything. I don’t think there’s a part of his game that you think is a huge weakness. He can post, he can come off screens, he can come off pick-and-rolls, he cuts well, he finishes well, goes one-on-one well. Definitely impressive,” Hayward noted.
When the Celtics eventually get Hayward back (presumably next season), a starting five of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Hayward, Tatum and Al Horford will become one of the best in the entire NBA. Until then, Hayward will continue to learn as much as possible off the court, attempting to make the best of his tough situation.