Celtics fans are eager to see prized 2017 signing Gordon Hayward back on the floor in a Boston uniform. And nobody wants to make it more worth the wait than Hayward himself, who is expected to play no more than 25 minutes in the team’s opener Tuesday against the 76ers.
“I’m going to go in and play as hard as I can when I’m out there on the floor,” Hayward said Monday (via NBC Sports Boston). “That’s something that, as a player, you can’t stand — minutes and limiting the amount of minutes. I think if you would ask all the players, they’d want to be out there the whole game. I understand, as far as what happened, and then trying to make sure that I’m kinda going at an upward path.
“First game of the year, it’s the goal, and so I have to accept that. When I’m out there, I’m going to be playing hard, hard as I can.”
Hayward said his ankle feels strong after a year of rehabbing a gruesome injury, and that he’s motivated to prove he hasn’t lost any of his game that made him a splash signing a year ago. But with this anticipated return comes a heap of nerves.
Gordon Hayward admits he’ll probably have some butterflies but ready to get back into a real game tomorrow night. pic.twitter.com/Knl3FNN02O
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) October 15, 2018
“Definitely a little anxious, just a little bit nervous. I think that’s natural though,” Hayward said. “Once you get out there and get your blood flowing and get up and down the court a couple times, that’ll go away. Just looking forward to being out there, that’s a big step for me. Like I said in the preseason, too, being out there on the floor after what happened is a big step.”
Hayward is expected to start Tuesday, but Celtics coach Brad Stevens tempered expectations with the minutes restriction and said: “That’s just to make sure we ramp it back up so that he’s feeling great toward the end of the year and the years beyond.”