Ainge Speaks on What Being 'Back' Means for Hayward

BOSTON – While the buzz out of the Auerbach Center is that Gordon Hayward has regained his pre-injury form, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is doing his best to taper expectations.

Ainge and Robert Williams, who both spoke to the media Saturday morning ahead of Boston’s open practice, made it sound like the All-Star version of Hayward has resurfaced.

“He’s back to being Gordon,” said Ainge.

“He’s just got it back, man,” said Williams.

That’s great news for the Celtics, but Ainge wants to be sure that everyone in Celtics Nation heads into this season with realistic expectations with regard to what being “back” means for Hayward.

“I sometimes worry, like, ‘Oh my gosh, they think he’s somebody else,’” Ainge joked before letting out a chuckle.

He might be right. Fans must understand that Hayward isn’t Larry Bird. He isn’t LeBron James. He isn’t Kevin Durant. He never was.

He’s always been Gordon Hayward, a player who brings a heck of a lot to the table that won’t always translate into gaudy box score numbers.

“Gordon is just a good basketball player,” Ainge commented. “He can think. He can pass. He can shoot. He can create. He can defend. He can rebound. He’s a complete player, and we need him to just be that.”

In that vein, Celtics won’t call on Hayward to score 30 points a night, nor should they. Instead, they need him to be solid in all areas, and, as coach Brad Stevens terms it, add value to winning.

Ainge turned back the clock on this topic and brought up the best trio of players he ever constructed as a general manager.

“Obviously, statistics don’t matter,” he said. “When we had success, we took three 25-point-per-game scorers in Ray (Allen), Paul (Pierce) and KG (Kevin Garnett), as an example, and they were all averaging 17, 18 (points per game).”

Those players saw a dip in their personal statistics due to the balance of the team, but they still greatly impacted Boston’s ability to win. Hayward certainly is not in the same category as those future Hall-of-Famers, but Ainge views the dynamic wing as a player who can make a similar impact on winning, regardless of his stat line.

As Ainge put it, “We’re looking for team success.” Not individual success. Hayward can help the team win in a variety of ways, and it doesn’t have to be via 30-point performances.

So while there is plenty of buzz around Hayward being “back,” take some advice from Ainge and taper your expectations.

Don’t expect Hayward to be someone he’s not. Expect him to be who he’s always been: an impactful, all-around player, who this season will be far more explosive and consistent.

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