Hayward Happy that Career Path has Finally Aligned with Walker’s
BOSTON – Building chemistry with Kemba Walker has been an easy process so far for Gordon Hayward. Part of the smooth transition may be due to the fact that they’re both established NBA veterans, but part of it, Hayward suggests, could also be related to the remarkably close alignment of their careers up until this point and the friendship that they have established along the way.
Hayward and Walker have lived on a nearly parallel timeline dating all the way back to their college playing days. They both wrapped up their respective collegiate careers with a trip to the NCAA championship game – Hayward with Butler in 2010, and Walker with UConn in 2011, which happened to result in a win against Hayward’s former team.
Their similar chronology continued into the NBA Draft, as both players were selected with the No. 9 overall pick in back-to-back summers – Hayward in 2010 by Utah, and Walker in 2011 by Charlotte.
Over the years, they crossed paths a few times outside of their regular NBA head-to-head matchups. For example, they participated together in various rookie/sophomore events during the 2011-12 season, and they also both competed together in their first All-Star Game in 2017.
They even almost became NBA teammates at one point. Hayward in 2014 reportedly signed an offer sheet with the Hornets, which would have paired him up with Walker had the Jazz not matched Charlotte’s offer, allowing them to reel him back to Salt Lake City.
Hayward rode out that contract in Utah before signing with Boston in 2017, while Walker remained with the Hornets for eight seasons before joining Hayward and the C’s this past summer.
Throughout it all, the pair have maintained a friendship, which Hayward believes could be beneficial for them as they grow accustomed to each other on the court.
“I think just being in the league together, and kind of coming in around the same time, doing different things as rookies and sophomores, Select Team on USA, also going and visiting in Charlotte – all those things add up,” Hayward said after practice Friday afternoon. “And even watching him – I've been watching him in the league for a while, so it's really exciting to be able to play with him.”
Hayward has taken these first few weeks of the preseason to really understand how Walker likes to play and how they can complement each other on the floor.
“It’s all repetition,” Hayward said of that process. “Kind of figuring out exactly where we’re going to be out on the court, where he likes to be at, where he likes to get the ball.”
It’s a process that Hayward sees his teammates working on, as well.
“I think everyone is building chemistry with him,” Hayward pointed out of the collective growing bond with Walker. “He’s a pretty easy guy to play with, and we’re just learning each other’s strengths.”
Once those strengths are learned, Hayward believes that Walker will develop into a cornerstone for this Celtics team.
“He’s definitely a game changer and I think the pace he plays at changes games,” he told Celtics.com at the beginning of training camp. “He’s one of the quickest guys in the league with the ball in his hands, and he seems to be able to find the seams in any defense, not only for himself making plays for himself when he gets in there but making plays for our team.”
Hayward has fondly observed those attributes of Walker’s for nearly a decade. Now that their career paths have finally lined up, Hayward can’t wait to see what they can accomplish together.