Celtics' Hayward on upcoming season: I'm ready to be the player I came here to be
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is ready to bounce back.
The 29-year-old was inconsistent last season as he continued to recover from a devastating leg injury that cost him almost all of 2017-18.
Hayward, who left the Utah Jazz and signed a four-year, $128million contract with the Celtics in July 2017, posted a letter on Wednesday on his blog addressed to Boston fans.
"On the court, I think that's something that coach [Brad] Stevens was cautious about with me last year," Hayward wrote. "He wanted to ease me into everything and make sure that I was healthy. Now, the reins are off. I'm ready to be the player I came here to be. That's my focus. That and raising a banner at the [TD] Garden.
"To our Celtics fans, I want to say thanks for sticking with us. Thanks for sticking with me. I know last year wasn't the year any of us wanted it to be, but this summer, I've worked harder than any summer I've ever had. I'm going to be ready to go. We're going to be ready to go."
The Celtics entered 2018-19 as the favourites to win the east, however, they finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the conference semifinals.
Boston's roster underwent a major overhaul this offseason. The team lost Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets), Al Horford (Philadelphia 76ers) and Marcus Morris (New York Knicks) but added three-time All-Star Kemba Walker and center Enes Kanter.
"Kyrie and Al are gone, but we brought in Kemba and Enes, and added some other pieces as well," Hayward wrote. "I think a lot of people around the league have kind of counted us out now. But I believe we've got a really tough squad. Kemba is definitely a game-changer. The pace that he plays at, there's not very many guys in the league that are as quick as he is, and can kind of find the seam the way he can. It opens things up for me. So I'm excited to get a chance to play with him this year.
"Enes is somebody that's going to bring energy. He's got all the moves in the post … the fans are going love him, for sure. They always do … the team's goal is still the same. Nothing has changed for us. The Boston Celtics still want to raise banner 18. That's still the goal."
Hayward averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game while shooting 33.3 per cent from three-point range last season.