Why KG isn't sure Hayward's return will benefit Celtics


Celtics forward Gordon Hayward was upgraded to doubtful for Thursday's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat and appears close to returning to Boston's lineup.

That's great news for a Celtics team that could use another quality offensive option after dropping Game 1 in overtime. ... Right?

Kevin Garnett isn't so sure.

In an interview with USA TODAY's Quenton S. Albertie, the former Celtics star wondered aloud if Hayward's return would actually make the team better.

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“I love Gordon to death," Garnett said. “I just don’t know where it fits in the growth of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. You have a trifecta, you know? And it just looks at times like he doesn’t fit or he tries too hard. It just looks like he doesn’t fit."

Garnett argued that Boston's roles have become more defined since Hayward went down in the Celtics' playoff opener against the Philadelphia 76ers one month from Thursday.

"With him out, it’s a simplicity for Marcus Smart to come in and play a certain way," Garnett said. "It seems like a simplicity for Kemba Walker to come in and play a certain way… Tatum. It just seems like a more simplistic system when those four, or those three, are kind of working."

"I’m no coach or anything. I’m just an observer and I’m a student of energy or chemistry. And I’m just watching how that whole dynamic looks when Gordon is off (the court).”

Celtics fans will recall a similar narrative around the 2017-18 squad, which reached Game 7 of the East finals without Hayward and Kyrie Irving as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were thrust into more prominent roles.

But the 2019-20 Celtics are a completely different team that is statistically better when Hayward plays, boasting a higher offensive rating and net rating when he's on the floor.

The Celtics have won seven of their last 11 playoff games without Hayward, and his re-integration into the lineup may not be seamless.

Boston needs as much firepower as possible to beat the Heat, though, and if the versatile Hayward can give the C's anywhere close to the 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists he averaged during the regular season, we're guessing they will welcome him back with open arms.

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