Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who also coached Utah Jazz wing Gordon Hayward at Butler, has high praise for his former player’s All-Star exploits.
Ever since he was announced as an All-Star reserve last month, Utah Jazz wing Gordon Hayward has noted that opposing players and coaches have gone out of their way to congratulate him for the achievement. However, none have had the same perspective on his career trajectory as Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
Long before Hayward was the muscle-bound baller (sporting the Association’s answer to the hipster haircut) and elite talent he is today, he was the skinny kid from Brownsburg, Indiana that nearly brought an NCAA title to the Butler Bulldogs on a halfcourt heave. At the time, Stevens was his coach.
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Before the Jazz and Celtics did battle on Saturday, Stevens was asked about his former player’s path to stardom. Perhaps more than anyone, he understands Hayward’s evolution. He also understands that Hayward had a little bit of help from the Jazz —
“It’s special to watch him. He’s made great strides; very exciting for him and the organization that he’s an All-Star. He’s certainly earned it. He’s shown tremendous growth throughout all of his years playing, but certainly all of his time here. I think he deserves a lot of credit and I think the coaching staff deserves a lot of credit. He plays in a great system for him and he’s doing a good job.”
When asked about Hayward’s physical growth, Stevens spoke at length about how the added strength has aided him not only defensively, but on offense with his ability to drive the basketball —
“He’s gotten bigger and stronger and that’s been a big part of his growth. He’s able to play more physical on both sides of the ball and he’s a physical driver. Sometimes people talk about playing hard on defense and equate it with getting loose balls and rebounds and such, but I think you have to play hard on offense too. He’s a physical, hard guy to stop because he drives it so well.”
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In the end, it was Stevens’ Celtics squad that got the win on Saturday. Nevertheless, Hayward served up another All-Star effort, scoring 31 points and nailing four three-pointers.
With Hayward set to enter the free agent market this summer, Stevens and the Celtics will undoubtedly look to sell him on Boston as a potential destination. For now, though, Hayward will represent the Jazz and the Western Conference in the All-Star Game on February 19 in New Orleans.