Celtics treated Hayward like a draft pick going into the season

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Gordon Hayward's first season with the Boston Celtics didn't go as planned. He suffered a brutal injury just five minutes into the first game of the season, and he missed the rest of the season. And the start of his second season wasn't great either. 

As Hayward looked to return from injury, he had trouble getting going early on, looking timid and struggling to find his rhythm. While this was a point of angst for Celtics fans at some points during the season, the team's administration viewed Hayward's situation differently.

Danny Ainge had an interesting take on Hayward coming into the season and stated that the Celtics viewed their former start free-agent signing as the equivalent of a No. 1 draft pick. Here's what Ainge said in an interview with NBC Sports' Abby Chin.

You know, I looked at Gordon coming into this season as a No. 1 draft pick where we got this great player that is not going to be himself early, but we have to just develop, be patient, and wait, and we’re going to reap the benefits and the rewards. Gordon, to his credit, has shown great leadership in accepting a role off the bench initially and understanding that he wasn’t who he wanted to be.

Patience was a big part of the plan for Hayward, as it took him quite a while to get reacclimated to playing at the NBA level. Ainge was confident that Hayward would eventually return to form even coming off the bench.

I never doubted whether Gordon would return to who he is, and I think he still has room to go forward. I think this offseason is going to be big for Gordon, but I’m excited for how he’s been playing the last couple of months.

And Ainge has good reason to be happy with Hayward's recent performance. Since March 5, Hayward has averaged 14.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists while playing in 14 games for the Celtics. The patience has paid off.

If Hayward can keep up that level of production in the playoffs, that will greatly help the Celtics' chances of advancing. And as Ainge said, Hayward could look to build on his late-season performance in the offseason.

Click here for the full video interview with Danny Ainge>>>

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