Gordon Hayward was elated to put “dark memories and dark times” behind him and make his first appearance in more than a year as the Celtics beat the 76ers.
A gruesome ankle injury in the 2017-18 opener ruled Hayward out for the remainder of the season, but on Tuesday he played 24 minutes as the Celtics started the new season with a 105-87 win at TD Garden.
Video footage of the All-Star going through his recovery over the past 12 months was played on the big screen in the arena prior to tip-off.
Hayward — who had 10 points, five rebounds and four steals against the Sixers — admitted it made him recall some unpleasant moments, but they did not linger for long once the game got started.
“It brought back a lot of memories, a lot of dark memories and dark times, but to be honest it was cool to see some of the progression,” Hayward said.
“It was amazing to be out there on the court again for a regular-season game. My adrenaline was definitely pumping those first three or four minutes. I think everybody’s adrenaline was pumping, because it was sloppy at first, but it was great just to be out there.
“That was a big step for me mentally. It was a big confidence booster just to finish that first game. Being back out on the court – that was a big hurdle.
“[The injury] definitely crossed my mind … just tried to get that out of my head as soon as I started playing and as soon as you’re out on the court some of that disappears.
“There’s definitely still a long way to go for me to be where I want to be at, but it was a great first step and a great team victory.”
— Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) October 17, 2018
Brad Stevens confirmed Hayward would be on a minutes restriction to start the season, and the forward knows it will take time for him to rediscover his previous level.
“It’s just part of it. Part of it is just having patience and knowing that it’s not all going to come at once,” he said.
“I think as long as I can do things when I’m out there on the court that can help us get wins, I’ll be happy.”