Boston Celtics

Hayward: ‘Too many agendas' held Celtics back in 2018-19 season

Former Celtic Gordon Hayward revealed why Boston fell short in the 2018-19 season.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The 2017-18 season was a rollercoaster for Boston Celtics fans. In an offseason that included signing Gordon Hayward -- who was just entering his prime -- and trading for one of the best point guards in the league in Kyrie Irving, the Celtics seemed all but unstoppable.

Irving and Hayward paired with proven veterans Marcus Smart and Al Horford, and budding superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, left Celtics fans confident in their chances to raise Banner 18 in June. Unfortunately for Boston, things didn't go as planned.

In the first quarter of the Celtics' season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Hayward went to finish at the rim on a lob from Irving through contact. He landed awkwardly on his leg, resulting in a gruesome injury that ended his season. The C's remained strong without Hayward but ultimately fell in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron James and the Cavs.

Going into the 2018-19 season, now with a healthy Hayward, an NBA Finals berth seemed within reach after the Celtics proved how far they could go without him. But after claiming the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 49-33 record, Boston fell 4-1 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

"In my eyes, we all just had too many agendas," Hayward said on league-mate Paul George's podcast, Podcast P. "The agenda to win was not the main one."

As good as they were as a team, each player had things they needed to prove on their own. Irving was still trying to show he could be the number one guy on a championship-winning team, while Terry Rozier -- who filled in for Irving in the playoffs after getting injured -- wanted to prove he could be a starter in the NBA. Tatum and Brown wanted to prove they could be the future of the franchise, and Hayward wanted to prove he could regain his All-Star form post-injury.

"Not to blame anyone either, 'cause I think it was all human nature," Hayward said. "I mean, I'm coming back from where the last season I played, I was an All-Star, so I'm trying to prove that I'm still an All-Star. Kyrie [Irving] was hurt the year before, so he's trying to prove that this is still his team. Then you've got JT (Jayson Tatum) and Jaylen and Terry who are coming off from where they are all starting in the Eastern Conference Finals the year before. They are all trying to prove, like, 'we've arrived.'"

Six players -- Irving, Tatum, Horford, Brown, Hayward, and Marcus Morris -- averaged double digits in scoring during the 2018-19 season, with Smart and Rozier just a point shy.

"We had, probably, eight players that had career highs of like over 40, who were all arguably in their prime." Hayward added. "The other problem is there was too many of us in the exact same position. We all needed the ball, we all rocked with the ball."

With 33 games played, the most commonly used starting lineup was that of Irving, Smart, Tatum, Morris, and Horford, leaving Hayward and Brown to be used as rotation players competing for minutes to play the same position.

George asked Hayward if there were any difficult conversations about how the Celtics, a roster flooded with ball-dominant players, could find a way to work together to sacrifice for the greater good of the team.

"We had like eight of them, at least," Hayward answered. "I mean, it was like one of those things where it's like, we've had five players-only meetings, and you know, things were said that were the right things, but I think it was just in one ear, right out the other. Like, 'OK, that sounds nice,' and 'we do need people to sacrifice, but that person shouldn't be me.' Even so, we still made it to the second round, and that was with all the difficulties we had."

Following the 2018-19 season, the Celtics would re-tool without Irving and ultimately move on from Hayward in the following year. The Celtics would struggle in their first season without Hayward, finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference and losing 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs, but would make trips to the Finals and the Eastern Conference Finals in the following two seasons, respectively.

Sitting atop the standings this season, the Celtics are once again favorites to win it all.

Contact Us