Damian Lillard is rarely rattled on the basketball court. That’s clear to anyone who has watched Lillard take over a game in clutch time and lead the Portland Trail Blazers to victory. The latest example of Lillard’s ice-water veins came on Sunday night, when the 23-year-old had 31 points, nine rebounds, five assists and several huge plays in the final minutes to lead the Blazers to an upset road victory over the Houston Rockets. It was Lillard’s first career playoff game, but you would never know it watching the confident point guard.
“It was a Damian Lillard performance,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. “Damian rises to the occasion. For all those people who were wanting to know if he was ready for the playoffs, I think he answered that question, so we don’t have to answer that anymore. He made big plays. The three was big, getting to the rim was big, making free throws – it was a big time performance.”
However, there are still some situations in which Lillard isn’t nearly as calm and collected. On a number of occasions over the last two years, he has spotted a celebrity and wanted to introduce himself, only to realize that no introduction was necessary. Lil Wayne approached him and offered praise at an event in Florida last year. Allen Iverson walked across the room to congratulate Lillard on his success before a game in Atlanta. A starstruck Lillard tried his best to keep his cool in both situations, but it was tough considering he grew up idolizing Weezy and A.I.
Even though he’s the star point guard for the Trail Blazers, an NBA All-Star and the 2013 Rookie of the Year, Lillard still hasn’t gotten used to being famous. He doesn’t view himself as a celebrity and is still surprised every time he meets an adoring fan or autograph seeker. While many NBA stars are hyped up and thrust into the spotlight from a young age, Lillard wasn’t viewed as a basketball prodigy until very recently. The 23-year-old still thinks of himself as the kid from Oakland who was overlooked for much of his life, and his journey to the NBA explains why.
Before Lillard was one of the NBA’s best up-and-coming players, he was a two-star high school recruit who couldn’t get a scholarship from a high major college. Lillard wasn’t given any playing time at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School, so he transferred from the private school to Oakland High School, where he went on to become the team’s star and average 22.4 points and 5.2 assists in his senior season. However, college coaches weren’t expressing interest in the point guard. The only scholarship that Lillard received was from Weber State University, a mid-major school in Ogden, UT. The school’s head coach, Randy Rahe, saw Lillard play several times and couldn’t believe that other schools weren’t pursuing him. When he received the commitment from Lillard, he realized that he had found a diamond in the rough. Had another school approached Lillard, the point guard likely would’ve committed to them instead. After all, Weber State isn’t exactly a hotbed for NBA players while competing in the Big Sky Conference.
Once he started playing for Weber State, other programs realized that they had missed out. As a freshman, Lillard averaged 11.5 points in 29.4 minutes. After his breakout year, coaches around the country were now calling and asking Lillard to transfer. Suddenly, the schools that had doubted him just one year before were telling him that he could be great and that he was too good for Weber State. Lillard was amused by the sudden interest, but never seriously considered transferring. Loyalty is important to Lillard and he wasn’t going to turn his back on the school that was interested when nobody else cared about him. He wasn’t going to get national exposure at Weber State, but he was committed to putting the program on the map and making the best of his situation.
“I know that I’m going to have to prove myself more than someone who goes to school in one of the power conferences,” Lillard told me in October 2011, just before starting his final season at Weber State. “I know that I have more to prove because I don’t play against the competition they play against night in and night out. I think when the time comes for us to play against them, either in the NCAA Tournament or during the season, I think it’ll speak for itself. I played at adidas Nations the last two years and I did well [against the top competition there], so I think I’ve proven myself so far. I have a chip on my shoulder from knowing that people doubt me and whether or not I can make it to the next level. It’s everyone’s dream to play in the NBA. I’ve wanted that my whole life. That’s what I work for, to prove people wrong.”
During his final season, Lillard became one of the best players in college basketball and displayed his electrifying scoring ability and playmaking skills. His doubters were silenced, just as he’d predicted. He finished the season as the nation’s second-leading scorer with 24.5 points while also averaging five rebounds and four assists.
After flying under the NBA radar for years, Lillard was suddenly being talked about as a first-round pick. His meteoric rise continued during the pre-draft process, when he dominated individual workouts for teams and chose to participate in the draft combine, which isn’t something that most top prospects do. It soon became clear that Lillard was the top point guard in the 2012 draft class and one of the best players overall – it had just taken the NBA talent evaluators longer than usual to realize this. On draft night, the Blazers selected Lillard with the sixth overall pick. Despite being told he wasn’t good enough in high school and getting overlooked by top colleges, Lillard had finally made it.
“It’s been crazy,” Lillard told me just before being drafted. “In high school, I flew under the radar. In college, I flew under the radar. Then, this year, all of sudden there were a lot of people at my practices and a lot of people calling me. There were agents. I had never experienced all of that before, all of the attention. It was crazy and it got out of hand for a little while. It overwhelmed me a little bit, but once I realized that it was all good attention and that it came with the territory with how successful I was, I accepted it. It was crazy, but I was happy to know that I was going in the right direction.”
Lillard has continued to go in the right direction over the last two years, becoming just the fourth player in NBA history to win the Rookie of the Year award unanimously and making his first All-Star appearance this season. During All-Star Weekend, he became the first player to participate in every event, and he defended his NBA Skills Challenge title. As previously mentioned, he made his postseason debut on Sunday night, after leading Portland to a surprising 54-28 record and the fifth seed in the West, exceeding all preseason expectations for the team. Lillard is now viewed as one of the top up-and-coming point guards in the NBA. Looking back on his journey to relevance and success, Lillard shakes his head and smiles.
“Does it ever feel surreal?” I asked him last month.
“Always,” Lillard said with a laugh. “When I see my school playing on TV, I’ll think, ‘Wow, I was out there.’ That whole time, I hoped that I was going to the NBA, but I had no idea that all of this would happen. My coach that I worked out with there would tell me, ‘Don’t just go to the NBA, go be an All-Star.’ And in my head, I’d be like, ‘Well, I want to be an All-Star, but I don’t know how possible that really is.’ The fact that I’m here and I was able to become an All-Star so soon, it’s a blessing. It was a huge honor. A lot of people don’t get that opportunity at any point in their career and I was blessed enough to get it in my second season. All of the credit goes to the team though. I was able to do that because of how successful the team was. I understand that. It’s been a lot of fun. When you’re winning, these types of things happen because everyone loves winners. More individual things come when your team is successful; I’ve always understood that. It’s been a night and day from two years ago to now. Hopefully we can keep being successful as a team and there’s more to come.”
Lillard isn’t like most NBA superstars. He’s down to earth and often self deprecating. He puts his team before himself. He’s not entitled. Lillard believes he’s been able to remain humble and not let his success change him because he wasn’t anointed as a basketball prodigy at a young age. Some players are groomed to become star athletes as young as 13 years old, and they are soon surrounded by yes-men, handlers, agents and others who view the player as a lottery ticket. These players are rarely criticized or held accountable for their actions because nobody wants to jeopardize their relationship with the kid. Instead, these players are constantly praised from a young age, leading them to become cocky and entitled. Lillard obviously didn’t get that kind of attention. He wasn’t a “phenom,” he just wanted to get a single college basketball coach to notice him and offer a scholarship. It wasn’t until Lillard was mature and much older that he was thrust into the limelight.
“I have a degree, I was in school for four years, I lived away from home for a long time and I had the opportunity to grow as a man,” Lillard said. “Not to talk down about anyone else, but I’ve got experience over [most young players]. Some of them are 18 years old. I think my maturity has definitely helped me.
“I just take everything for what it is. I understand where I started and what had to be done for me to get here – working hard and having high character. I still appreciate those things. I appreciate just being here too. I don’t think, ‘Alright, I’m here so now I’m a big shot and nobody can tell me nothing.’ That’s not what made me who I am. I appreciate the things that made me who I am and I’ll never get away from those things. … I still have the same company, the same people around me. I’m sticking to what I’ve always done. I haven’t changed.”
While Lillard was more prepared for the NBA than most players when he entered the league, there’s no question that he has made huge strides over the last two years. He has continued to improve each season, working hard to maximize his potential.
“I’ve grown a lot since I entered the league, especially with the opportunity that I was given here,” Lillard said. “They put me out there right away and I was running an NBA team as a rookie, so that forced me to grow up. Then, coming into this season, we had a better team so expectations were high. I also had a lot of veterans around me and I had an increased role on the team, so that helped me grow up.”
Lillard’s All-Star teammate, LaMarcus Aldridge, has been impressed with the point guard’s development. Before the Blazers drafted Lillard, Aldridge was seriously considering leaving Portland. The team was rebuilding and struggling to win games, so Aldridge thought about demanding a trade or leaving as a free agent when his contract ended. However, Lillard’s emergence as a second star has allowed the Blazers to speed up their rebuilding process and return to the playoffs quicker than expected. Aldridge is thrilled to have Lillard in Portland and has been impressed with the development of his sidekick.
“He’s become a better point guard, knowing when to move the ball, knowing when to get guys involved, knowing when to be aggressive going to the basket or looking for his shot,” Aldridge said. “I think he’s grown a whole lot this year. We help each other. I help take pressure off him because guys can’t leave me and vice versa. When people leave me, I hit him, so people try to stay home on him too.”
Lillard has also grown off the court, where he has adjusted to the NBA lifestyle and everything that comes with being an All-Star. Last year, while visiting Times Square with his mother, he was swarmed by autograph seekers. That’s the moment he realized just how much his life had changed, and that he could no longer just blend in. He’s a household name now, with 1.1 million Facebook likes and 350,000 Twitter followers.
“That’s a part of it,” Lillard said of fame. “That’s something that you have to accept when you take on this profession, it’s something that you understand when you’re pursuing this career. People are going to be fans of you. You’re a public figure. With that, you need to make sure that you’re always doing the right things. You need to take on that challenge and do the right things because you’re influencing kids.”
It wasn’t long ago that Lillard was one of those kids, looking up to Oakland legends like Gary Payton and Jason Kidd and hoping to someday play in the NBA. Now, he has achieved his goal and is living his dream. After years of being overlooked, all eyes are finally on Lillard and he’s ready for the limelight.
NBA All-Star Friday Recap
Basketball Insiders recaps NBA All-Star Friday 2019, which featured a four-point shot and a deep pool of talent in the Rising Stars Challenge.
NBA All-Star Celebrity Game
The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game had a variety of big names to trot out on Friday night. This list included former NBA players such as Ray Allen and Jay Williams, current WNBA players Stefanie Dolson and A’ja Wilson, entertainers such as JB Smoove, Mike Colter, and Hassan Minhaj, and last year’s MVP, Quavo.
The Home Team was coached by WNBA legend Dawn Staley while the Away Team was coached by WNBA superstar Sue Bird.
Team Staley pulled ahead multiple times throughout the game, but every run they made was followed by a run by Team Bird. Team Bird’s comeback attempt fell short as Team Staley ultimately won 82-80.
Internet Comedian Famous Los led the way for Team Staley, scoring a team-high 22 points on 10-16 shooting while dishing out three assists in the team’s victory. Jay Williams razzled and dazzled as well, scoring 18 points on 8-15 shooting while dishing out five assists – including this beauty.
— NBA (@NBA) February 16, 2019
What could have been with Jay Williams…
Quavo topped his performance last year for Team Staley, scoring a game-high 27 points in total, highlighted by what may very well be the only five-point play to ever happen in an NBA-sponsored basketball game. Quavo shot 13-19 from the field while also corralling nine rebounds as well. Ray Allen also put up a vintage performance, putting up 24 points on 11-21 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists.
There were a few interesting wrinkles to this game. A four-point shot was implemented in which $4,000 would be donated to charity for each shot made from distance. Ten four-pointers were made in the game, totaling $40,000 in charity donations.
Two more fun facts: We didn’t even get a tip-off in this game. Comedian Brad Williams stole the ball from the ref to start it off. Also, just because it’s a harmless exhibition does not mean participants won’t get into it. JB Smoove and Hassan Minhaj got a little testy at the end of the first quarter.
Other participants included:
From Team Bird: Ronnie 2K (Director of influencer marketing, 2K Sports), AJ Buckley (Actor, “SEAL Team”), Bad Bunny (Singer), Marc Lasry (Milwaukee Bucks’ Co-Owner), Adam Ray (Host of About Last Night), Amanda Seales (Actor/Comedian), James Shaw Jr. (Hometown Hero), Brad Williams (Host of About Last Night)
From Team Staley: Chris Daughtry (Singer), Terrence Jenkins (TV Personality/Actor), Dr. Oz (TV Personality), Rapsody (Rapper), Bo Rinehart (Musician), Steve Smith (Former NFL Player), Jason Weissman (Hometown Hero)
MTN DEW ICE Rising Stars
If last year’s Rising Stars game had an overabundance of talent, this one may have very well topped it. That’s how loaded this year’s class was.
Let’s start with what could be a preview for what’s to come next year: Luka Doncic’s performance. More specifically, his connection with Lauri Markaanen. Throughout the first quarter, Doncic found Markaanen everywhere, either for easy alley-oops or wide open threes on the pick and pop.
Why bring this up? Because this is exactly what we could expect to see from Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis when they share the court together, as Markaanen has a similar skill set offensively to Porzingis’.
As for the game itself, Team USA jumped out to a 12-point lead at the half, thanks primarily to the likes of Jayson Tatum (16 points on 6-12 shooting) and Kyle Kuzma (21 points on 10-16 shooting).
Team World wouldn’t go down without a fight. In the third quarter, they managed to cut the deficit down to a point thanks primarily to Doncic and Ben Simmons’ collective efforts, but that was as close as they got. Team USA pulled away in the fourth quarter as they went on to win 161-144.
Simmons led the way for Team World, as he finished with 30 points on 14-17 shooting on a squad where, outside of Simmons, the scoring was pretty well spread out as Doncic, Markaanen, DeAndre Ayton, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rodney Kurucs, OG Annonuby, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Okogie all had 10 points or more.
Team USA had a few standouts, including Kuzma (35 points on 15-27 shooting), Tatum (30 points on 12-24 shooting), Donovan Mitchell (20 points, nine assists, seven rebounds), and Trae Young (25 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds). All were deserving of the MVP, but the award ultimately went to Kuzma.
Tonight, we go a little deeper into All-Star Weekend with the Dunk Contest, Three-Point Shooting Contest, and the Skills Challenge. Stay tuned!
NBA Daily: Can Tobias Harris Put the 76ers Over the Top?
Shane Rhodes breaks down whether the addition of Tobias Harris can push the 76ers into the NBA Finals.
The Philadelphia 76ers made perhaps the biggest move of trade season when they acquired Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers. Harris, in the midst of a career year, was on the path to a lucrative contract come this summer. But, with an uncertain future in Los Angeles, Philadelphia capitalized and made their move to win now.
In doing so, the 76ers have put together, arguably, the most talented starting roster in the Eastern Conference. But what exactly does Harris bring to the team, and can he put them over the top of their competition in the East?
Harris has very much looked the part of an All-Star this season and has given Brett Brown and the 76ers coaching staff yet another weapon with which to attack defenses. The 26-year-old has posted career highs in points (20.7), rebounds (7.8) and assists (2.8) per game, field goal percentage (49.7) and three-point percentage (43.0) this season and should prove a significant upgrade over Wilson Chandler, who was sent to Los Angeles in the trade, on both offense and defense.
In a superior lineup, his Harris’ play should only improve as well.
His statistical values may dip with the move to Philadelphia, but, in a way, the team may look at that as a positive; with so many talents on the floor together, Brown, in theory, should be able to utilize Harris in order to reduce wear and tear on his other players — namely Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler — and keep them somewhat fresh for the postseason, if not at the expensive of some personal stats.
Harris is another player that can handle the ball and should lead to even more movement within the 76ers offense. He has shown over the years an ability to push the ball up the floor in transition and should relieve some of the pressure from Simmons in that area as well. In the event that he is the lone star on the floor, or should the ball movement stop, Harris able and willing to break out his do-it-himself kit; he may not dance a defender like Kyrie Irving, but he is more than capable of sizing up his man and either hitting a shot in their face or brute-forcing his way to the basket.
Harris is a more-than-capable shooter and, off the ball, should provide Simmons with another reliable perimeter outlet and open things up on the interior open things up inside for him and Embiid as well.
Defensively, Harris isn’t a wizard, but the effort and energy are there and should shine in the already competent 76ers defense. While it may not be ideal in all situations, Harris has the size to bang down low with some centers and the quickness to keep up with smaller players on the perimeter. Harris’ length — a near seven-foot wingspan — should also prove an asset, as he will allow the defense to switch on almost every possession. In the postseason, that could prove invaluable.
As good as this acquisition may look on paper, it isn’t without its cons or risks. Harris’ is another primary option on a team that already had three of them in Embiid, Simmons and Butler; could the presence of too many options bog things down a la the Boston Celtics earlier this season?
His contract situation, alongside the impending free agency of Butler, should give some pause as well.
The team has hedged its future on those two players and given up some good (and some great) assets to acquire them. Should Butler leave, Harris would provide the 76ers with the ultimate insurance policy but, should both players move on after the season it could set the team back years.
The 76ers have plenty of pre-existing issues to figure out as well, a losing record against their chief Eastern Conference competition — Milwaukee Bucks (0-1), Toronto Raptors (1-2) and Celtics (0-3) — most prominent among them.
But, with Harris in the fold, the 76ers seem to have all the pieces of the puzzle. If the players can put it all together, they could very well find themselves in the NBA Finals come June.
Gordon Hayward Clearing Hurdles, Finding Joy In Comeback From Injury
Spencer Davies sits down with Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward to discuss the first half of his season, returning from a devastating injury and the team blocking out the noise.
As his Boston Celtic teammates got some shots up to prepare for a morning practice in Cleveland, Gordon Hayward sat in a chair on the baseline watching.
Quicken Loans Arena held a particular place in his mind. Not because of a championship memory, nor for any individual accomplishment.
But because nearly five months after an emotional return and season debut, Hayward had come back to the scene where the course of his career shifted in an instant.
“It’s something that I was thinking about sitting in the hotel last night,” Hayward told Basketball Insiders before shootaround at The Q. “Like, last time I was here, my whole world changed. I’ll probably think about it, be a little anxious about it at the beginning when I first check in, but then when I get going it’ll be fine.”
If there was any trepidation, it was either short-lived or didn’t show. The 28-year-old looked as confident as ever, packing a powerful punch off the bench as a scorer and a distributor for a depleted Boston team. He finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.
“I didn’t even think about that until this morning,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Hayward’s return to Cleveland. “I thought about it in the preseason and then for whatever reason, I probably should’ve thought about it.
“I just think he has played enough now where he’s past that initial hurdle, right? So it’s probably not fun to walk out on the court the first time and shoot around and those type of things but ultimately, I think he probably moved past that really quickly. I thought he was great tonight, both ends of the court. I thought his offensive playmaking passing the ball was as good as his scoring.”
Hayward has scored 20 points or more on just three different occasions this year. It’s a far cry from the All-Star numbers he used to put up nightly. He understands, however, that perseverance is necessary as he slowly, but surely gets re-acclimated to playing.
“Physically, I’ve felt pretty good. I think I’m definitely moving way better than I was at the beginning of the season,” Hayward told Basketball Insiders. “I’m getting more and more confident with each month, each week. There’s definitely still games where I just don’t feel like myself, but I think I’m trending in the right direction.”
When asked about those areas that don’t feel right yet Hayward pinpointed attacking the basket, specifically going at big men in the paint, taking contact and finishing.
Knowing that he can go up, get hit and be able to come down fine is a mental hurdle Hayward admittedly still has to clear—and the only way to get past that is repetition.
“You just have to do it, and do it more than one time,” Hayward told Basketball Insiders. “It’s like an experience-type thing. You’ve got to just do it and feel confident doing it, and until that happens, then you’ll just keep thinking about it.”
Once Hayward is driving and dunking on a regular basis without thinking about what happens next, he says he’ll officially be back. Until then, an appreciation of being able to play the game he loves again is the true big picture—especially after an injury that could’ve taken it all away from him.
“That’s been a mental thing as well is trying to find some joy in just the fact that I’m back out on the court,” Hayward told Basketball Insiders. “Because some people don’t return from that and a blessing that we have the technology that we do these days that they were able to fix my ankle. So I guess just being patient with the whole thing, that’s been a challenge.”
CELTICS A WORK IN PROGRESS
Coming into the 2017-18 season, the excitement in Boston was palpable. Hayward signed a four-year maximum contract with the Celtics that summer. Shortly thereafter, Danny Ainge made a blockbuster deal to acquire Kyrie Irving, creating a dynamic duo to begin a new era of C’s basketball.
The Celtics started the campaign on the road against the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cavaliers in October. Since the storyline of the night was Irving facing off against the franchise he had won a championship with on opening night, Hayward’s debut took a bit of a back seat…until the unthinkable happened.
Less than halfway into the first quarter, Irving saw a cutting Hayward with an open path to the rim and threw up a lob looking for an alley-oop finish. Cleveland’s Jae Crowder and LeBron James came to double before Boston’s pair could connect, leaving Hayward afloat in an awkward position.
Hayward came down almost horizontally, with only his left leg there to brace himself for the fall. Tragically, he dislocated his ankle and fractured his tibia simultaneously in one of the most gruesome moments in the history of sports.
As he was consoled by trainers and wheeled away on a stretcher with an air cast, the whole arena was dead silent. Players from both teams were praying in disbelief of what they’d just witnessed. Just like that, Hayward’s season was over, and even perhaps his career.
Following multiple successful surgeries and going through rehabilitation programs over the course of a year, Hayward was able to make a miraculous return to the court on October 16, 2018. He’s been on the floor for 26 minutes per night, playing in 53 of 58 total games.
Just as Hayward has tirelessly ground away to get back to form, so have the Celtics. With a healthy Irving and returning Hayward, along with the group that unexpectedly went seven games into the conference finals last year, they were supposed to be the top dog in the East.
It’s no secret that the Celtics boast an abundance of young talent. Jaylen Brown has shown plenty of growth after a shaky start to the season. Terry Rozier is on track to get paid in the offseason by a team in need of a starting point guard. Jayson Tatum is Boston’s second-best scorer (16.5 points per game) and rebounder (6.3 boards per game) at just 20 years old.
That goes without mentioning rookie center Robert Williams. Daniel Theis and Brad Wanamaker, while not quite as young, are two inexperienced NBA players who have overseas experience. The Celtics’ depth is a quality that is necessary for a deep run in the postseason.
“I think anytime they have an opportunity, they seem to make the most of it. That’s at every position,” Hayward told Basketball Insiders.
At the halfway mark headed into the All-Star break, Boston holds fifth place, locked in a battle with the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers for the three seed. The Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors each have 43 wins with over five games separating them from the trio of teams behind them.
Despite back-to-back blown leads and losses to both Los Angeles franchises at the TD Garden, the Celtics have won 12 of their last 15 contests.
“I think when we all play with energy and when we’re connected defensively – and offensively, for that matter, but especially on the defensive end – we give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Hayward told Basketball Insiders. “Then, when we are able to move the ball and put together games where we have 30-plus assists, that’s when we’re really tough (to beat).”
TUSSLING WITH THE MEDIA
It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, though. Early in the season, there were many things said by multiple players on the record, including some pointed words from Irving in more than one instance. These comments can be twisted and turned easily.
Add in an example: the day he told reporters, “Ask me July 1,” regarding his free agency plans, it turned into a big mess of speculation. What many people didn’t hear was Irving’s thoughts regarding the media’s spin on what was actually going on.
“This is like college recruitment for me all over again. I don’t know. This is just weird,” Irving said to the scrum of reporters in New York. “It’s a new position to be in answering all these questions, seeing all this stuff that I’m trying to avoid, and it’s just a distraction. It’s crazy how stories and things and storyline can seep into a locker room. You guys are part of the destruction of locker rooms. That’s just what it is….”
Hayward had plenty of his own thoughts on the matter.
“I mean, I think certainly all outside noise has an opportunity to put a wedge between people and between teammates,” Hayward told Basketball Insiders. “I think especially in today’s age where there’s social media and information is right now, all-the-time, like everybody sees what everybody says. There’s guys that are paid to give their opinions on things and, if you read into all that stuff, can definitely put a wedge in between guys.
“More than anything, just talking to people,” Hayward said of the proper remedy. “If you have an issue with somebody, just tell ’em, talk to ’em. But I think for the most part if you block all that stuff out and really just focus on yourself as a group and what the coaching staff is saying and what your teammates are saying, it’s usually better.”
FATHERHOOD IS A BLESSING
We talked about the youth Boston has already, but Hayward isn’t in that same category anymore. While it’s not that he’s old, per se, he is a nine-year man in the NBA.
Hayward considers it “weird” that he’s the veteran now. Yet, at the same time, he doesn’t mind that time has flown by because of the gift of fatherhood. The injury he sustained was absolutely devastating.
But it put things in perspective for him, and no matter what happens from here on out with his career, Hayward will always be grateful for the most important thing in his life—family.
“No doubt. I think no matter what happens on the court, my girls don’t care,” Hayward told Basketball Insiders. “They just care that dad’s home and they want to play hot lava and play picnic and all that stuff. Like having three healthy kids and a wife at home, those things are good.”
If Hayward’s recent play is an indication of what we’re going to see from him moving forward, he might just get the best of both worlds.