Gordon Hayward said he will come off the bench if that’s what the Celtics need
As the Celtics search for answers to jump-start their offense, start games better, and play more consistently, coach Brad Stevens said he’s considering lineup changes. And swingman Gordon Hayward said he would not be offended by coming off the bench.
Hayward is admittedly off to a slow start after he missed all but five minutes of last season with a severe leg injury. He is averaging 9.9 points on 39.6 percent shooting and 31.9 percent from the 3-point line.
The Celtics have fallen behind by at least 20 points in each of their past three games, rallying to beat Phoenix in overtime before losing to Utah and Portland in the final minutes when their furious rallies fell short.
Hayward said he is open to a role change or coming off the bench as he tries to return to form.
“For me, I’m happy to be on the court, No. 1 more than anything and, No. 2, whatever I can do to help us win,’’ Hayward said at the Auerbach Center in Brighton. “I said it before the season, it’s whatever to me.
“We have to figure something out because for whatever reason we’re not playing our best basketball right now.
“There’s obviously a little bit of rust and sometimes you just go through those phases. You go through slumps. The shot feels good in practice and looks good and for whatever reason in the game, they’re in and out.
“Sometimes it gets frustrating, but for me, I’ve played in the league long enough to know you just have to put in the work in practice and shoot with confidence, shoot your way out of it.”
When asked his theory for the slow starts, Hayward said: “I think we’ve just have to go into games and play with more energy, I guess. Somehow we seem to find it when we’re down big. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the problem is.”
Hayward is getting more comfortable as a point forward and playmaker.
After amassing 10 assists in his first six games, he has collected 24 in his past six games.
One of Stevens’s goals during the preseason was to have Hayward facilitate the offense in certain situations.
“It’s something that I’m trying to do is move the ball, get teammates involved, get us some easy looks, especially off pick-and-rolls,” Hayward said.
“It’s something I’m comfortable doing. I’m trying to do whatever I can to help us.”
Hayward didn’t see the Caris LeVert injury, but he had enough friends and social media followers sending him video of the Nets guard’s horrific leg injury in Brooklyn’s loss to Minnesota on Monday. LeVert was diagnosed with a dislocated right foot and some ligament damage and could be back this season, according to the team.
It brought back memories of Hayward’s injury Oct. 17, 2017, when he dislocated his left ankle and fractured his left tibia leaping for an alley-oop five minutes into the season-opening game.
Hayward posted his support on Twitter for LeVert, then discussed the impact of such an injury.
“I heard the timeline [to return] is a little bit better [than mine],” Hayward said. “But still, he was playing really well and you hate injuries for anybody. That’s tough.
Interest in Carmelo?
When Kyrie Irving mentioned the Celtics could use a “14- or 15-year veteran” in the locker room as a voice of reason after a 100-94 loss at Portland, the question surfaced as to whether Irving was referring to Carmelo Anthony, who has been essentially exiled from the Houston Rockets.
According to an NBA source, the Celtics have not shown serious interest in Anthony but are monitoring the situation.
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge has considered acquiring Anthony in the past but his salary and desire for a prominent role was always a deterrent.
Now the circumstances are different. Anthony, who was bought out by the Atlanta Hawks after he was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder, signed a one-year minimum deal with the Rockets and could be claimed off waivers, if the Rockets release him.
With money not an issue because of Anthony’s $2.3 million minimum deal, the only question for the Celtics would be creating a roster spot. The Celtics have 15 players on their active roster, but that includes second-year swingman Jabari Bird, who is dealing with legal issues following domestic violence charges.
The Celtics could waive Bird, but will be responsible for his salary, and then sign a player such as Anthony without major luxury-tax implications. NBA teams over the salary cap are allowed to sign veteran players to minimum deals.
There would be competition for Anthony on the open market. Philadelphia general manager Elton Brand said Tuesday the 76ers could fill their open roster spot with an impactful player and are being patient with that move after creating a slot with the Jimmy Butler trade.
Other NBA clubs are also keeping tabs on Anthony’s situation. Anthony has been blamed for the Rockets’ slow start but is averaging 13.4 points on 40.5 percent shooting.
In Houston’s up-tempo, 3-point fueled offense, Anthony has struggled and was benched after a 3-for-20 stretch from the 3-point line. He hasn’t played since Nov. 8 because of what the team has termed an “illness,” and the organization is reportedly deliberating his future.