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NBA PM: Ranking the 70 Greatest Knicks of All-Time (Part 1)

To commemorate the Knicks’ 70th anniversary, Tommy Beer, in a two-part series, ranks the 70 greatest Knicks of all-time.

Tommy Beer

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The 2016-17 season marks the 70th anniversary of the New York Knickerbockers franchise. To commemorate seven decades of Knicks basketball, Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders, in a two-part series, has ranked the 70 greatest Knicks of all time. Here, we cover the first half of these rankings:

70. Jeremy Lin
Lin played fewer than 1,000 minutes, appearing in just 35 games, including only 25 starts, in his entire Knicks career. Nonetheless, few players have matched his impact, both on and off the court. “Linsanity” not only took over New York City in the winter of 2012, but it also became an international phenomenon. During the peak of Linsanity, a ten game stretch in February, Lin averaged 24.6 points, 9.2 assists and 2.4 steals. He scored a combined total 136 points in his first five starts, which is the highest point total in the first five starts of any player’s career since the NBA and ABA merged in 1976. Only three other players had scored more than 100 points: Shaquille O’Neal (129), Michael Jordan (116) and Allen Iverson (107). Yes, the flame didn’t last long, but it sure was fun to watch it burn while it lasted.Another tidbit: There are only two players in Knicks history who have appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated multiple times: Patrick Ewing and Jeremy Lin.

69. Len Chappell
Chappell played three years in New York. His first season, 1963-64, was his best. Chappell was named to the All-Star team that year, averaging 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest.

68. Chris Childs
Childs was a starter on the 1996-97 squad, and a valuable reserve the following three seasons. He may be best known (and most loved) for clocking Kobe Bryant.

67. Xavier McDaniel
He only played one full season with the Knicks, but it would still feel wrong not including him on this list. The X-Man averaged 13.7 points and 5.6 boards in 1991-92 and was phenomenal in the postseason that year as he averaged 18.8 points and 7.2 rebounds. He earns bonus points for bullying MJ and Scottie.

66. Dean Meminger
Dean the Dream was a playground legend in NYC before ever suiting up as a professional. He played four seasons with the Knicks and was a reliable contributor off the bench during the team’s title run in 1973. During the postseason that year, Meminger played in all 17 games, making 31 of 56 field-goal attempts — good for a team-leading 55.4 shooting percentage.

65. Kenny Walker
After starring at the University of Kentucky, Walker was selected with the fifth pick in the 1986 NBA draft. He ended up playing for five coaches in his five years with the Knicks. Sky Walker won the 1989 Slam Dunk Contest. He wasn’t even supposed to appear in the contest, but was asked to be a last-minute replacement and agreed. Competing in the memory of his father, who had just passed away a few days earlier, he took home the title.

64. Raymond Felton
Felton had two separate stints with the Knicks. In total, he started 189 games and averaged 13.4 points and 6.6 assists.

63. Nate Robinson
Always entertaining, Robinson was one of the greatest all-around athletes to ever wear the orange and blue. Nate was an All-American in high school in both football and basketball. He won the NBA Slam Dunk contest three times.

62. Dave Stallworth
“Dave the Rave” had two solid seasons in New York before suffering a heart attack in 1967, which sidelined him for two years. He rejoined the team in 1969-70 and was a valuable contributor off the bench. When Willis Reed was injured early in Game 5 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Stallworth had the unenviable task of trying to stop Wilt Chamberlain. But Stallworth held his own, and the Knicks managed to secure the incredibly important victory.

61. Eddy Curry
Unfortunately, due to the way his career ended, Curry is remembered as a disappointing underachiever. However, he had some productive seasons in NYC. From 2005 through 2008, Curry averaged 15.7 points and six rebounds per game. In December of 2006, he averaged 21.6 points and 7.9 rebounds. How about this factoid: Over the last 35 years, only three Knicks have scored at least 20 points and grabbed five rebounds in 10 or more consecutive games: Patrick Ewing, Amar’e Stoudemire and … Eddy Curry.

60. Tom Gola
Played four years for the Knicks and made the All-Star team in both the 1962-63 and 1963-64 seasons. In 1968, Gola was elected to the Pennsylvania State House. He was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on April 26, 1976.

59. Rory Sparrow
Sparrow established himself as a starting shooting guard for the Knicks in 1983-84 and averaged 10.4 points and 6.8 assists in the regular season, and then contributed 11.2 points per game in the playoffs. He tallied a career-high 7.1 per assists per game the following season.

58. Howard Komives
Komives was named to the NBA’s all-rookie team as a Knick in 1965 and had his best professional season in 1966-67, when he averaged 15.7 points and 6.2 assists. He was also part of the package NY sent to Detroit to acquire Dave DeBusschere.

57. Louis Orr
Orr played six seasons in New York, qualifying for the postseason three times. In 1984-85, he posted career-highs in points (12.7 ppg) and rebounds (4.9 rpg).

56. Hubert Davis
Yes, Scottie Pippen did foul him. Hue Hollins made the correct call. Let’s move on.

55. Vince Boryla
Boryla played five seasons for the New York Knicks in the 1950s and averaged 11.2 points. New York went to the NBA finals in 1952 and 1953, losing both times to George Mikan and the Lakers. At age 28, after he had retired as a player, Boryla later took over as the Knicks coach for three seasons.

54. Trent Tucker
How many guys can claim they have a rule named after them? Tucker’s three-pointer to beat the Bulls with one-tenth of a second remaining would force the NBA to mandate that the game clock and shot clock must show at least three-tenths of a second for a player to secure possession of the ball to attempt a field goal. Among all Knicks, Tucker ranks seventh in career games played and ninth in three-point percentage (40.9).

53. Kristaps Porzingis
Figuring out where to place Porzingis on this list is extremely difficult, considering he has played only 130 games in his career thus far. However, he has already posted some eye-popping numbers and infused much-needed hope into a depressed fanbase. Believe it or not, Porzingis already ranks eighth in franchise history in blocked shots! Porzingis also has knocked down at least three three-pointers and blocked six shots in the same game three times in his young career. No other player in Knicks franchise history has done that even once.

52. Johnny Newman
Newman was a starter on a successful Knicks teams. New York went to the playoffs in each of his three seasons in NYC, advancing to the second-round twice. However, that was one of the very few stops in his NBA career in which he was a part of a winning team. Newman lost 664 games over the course of his 16-year NBA career, which are the most losses by an individual player in the history of professional basketball.

51. Charles Smith
He’d rank higher if not for the infamous final moments of Game 5 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals.

50. Marvin Webster
Webster gets bonus points for having the coolest nickname on the list: The Human Eraser. He blocked 542 shots over six seasons as a Knick, the third most in franchise history.

49. Dick Van Arsdale
Van Arsdale was selected by the ‘Bockers in the second-round of the 1965 NBA draft. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1966, along with his identical twin brother Tom Van Arsdale. Dick averaged 12.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in his three seasons as a Knick.

48. Toby Knight
Knight played four seasons in New York. In 1979-80, he posted career-highs in points (19.1), steals (1.4) and blocks (1.1), while shooting over 52 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the charity stripe.

47. Jamal Crawford
Crawford was (and still is) an incredibly gifted scorer. He appeared in a total of 299 games for the Knicks, averaging 17.6 points and 4.4 assists. Crawford would later find his groove coming off the bench in subsequent NBA stops. He won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2010, 2014 and 2016, becoming the first three-time winner of the award in NBA history.

46. Wilson Chandler
Chandler is the only player in franchise history with at least 200 blocks and at least 200 made three-pointers. (And they used to play the “Willllsssssooooonnnn” sound effect from the movie “Cast Away” when he scored at MSG.)

45. Max Zaslofsky
Zaslofsky helped lead the Knicks to two consecutive NBA Finals in 1950-51 and 1951-52. He was named to the All-Star team in the 1951-52 season and he led New York in scoring with 14.1 points per game (13th in the league).

44. Bud Palmer
Palmer is widely credited with popularizing the jump shot in the late 1940s. He was the Knicks first captain and their first leading scorer. Palmer played three seasons with the Knicks, averaging 11.7 points per contest. He increased his scoring to 14.4 points in 14 playoff games.

43. Ray Felix
Felix spent six seasons in New York, from 1955 through 1960. He averaged 12 points and 9.1 rebounds as a Knick.

42. Derek Harper
One could make a very strong argument that Derek Harper would have been named MVP of the 1994 NBA Finals had Hakeem Olajuwon not gotten a fingertip on John Starks’ three-point attempt in the closing seconds of Game 6. Harper averaged 16.4 points, six assists and 2.4 steals in that series. He also hit a ton of big shots and played spectacular defense, locking up Kenny Smith.

41. Cazzie Russell
Few players arrived in New York with higher expectations than Cazzie Russell. The Knicks selected Russell with the first overall pick in the 1966 draft after a standout career at the University of Michigan. However, Cazzie never quite lived up to the hype, averaging a solid, if unspectacular, 13.3 points and 3.7 rebounds during his five seasons as a Knick.

40. David Lee
Not much was expected of Lee after the Knicks took him with the last pick in the first-round of 2005 draft. However, Lee would go on to post some incredible stats during his five seasons in New York. In his final year, 2009-10, Lee averaged 20.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. He’s one of only four Knicks to average at least 20/11/3 over a full season. The other three are Ewing, McAdoo and Bellamy. Lee’s stats benefited greatly from playing in Mike D’Antoni’s high-octane offense.

39. Gerald Wilkins
Which is a worse fate: Sisyphus being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill for all of eternity, or being tasked with guarding a young Michael Jordan in his prime?

38. Spencer Haywood
Compared to his days as a superstar in Seattle, Haywood’s numbers in New York are not nearly as impressive. Nonetheless, he still averaged 17.1 points and 8.6 rebounds during his four-year stint with the Knicks. Also, he enjoyed his time in NYC. According to Haywood’s bio on NBA.com: “In the Big Apple he led the life of a star. He married glamorous fashion model Iman, and the celebrity couple were regulars on the social scene.”

37. Charlie Ward
Ward, who won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship for Florida State in 1993, appeared in 580 games over 10 seasons in New York. That’s the most by any player since Patrick Ewing arrived. He was a gritty, steady point guard for some very good Knicks teams. He ranks fifth in franchise history in made three-pointers, fifth in steals and seventh in assists. Amazingly, Ward is the last Knick draftee to sign a multi-year contract extension after his rookie deal expired.

36. Phil Jackson
Action Jackson earned NBA All-Rookie Team honors in 1967-68, along with two other Knicks: Walt Frazier and Bill Bradley. He was a key contributor on the 1972-73 championship squad, averaging 8.1 ppg and 4.3 rpg in 17.4 minutes. The following season, 1973-74, Phil averaged a career-high 11.1 points. He ranks fifth on the all-time Knicks career list in games played. As you may have heard, he’s done some other stuff in the NBA since retiring as a player.

35. Kenny Sears
Drafted in 1955, Sears led the Knicks twice in scoring. He poured in 18.6 points per game in 1957-58 and a averaged a career-high 21 in 1958-59. Sears also led the league in field goal percentage in back-to-back seasons, 1958-59 (.490) and 1959-60 (.477). He made two All-Star teams.

*****

Be sure to stop by later this week when we will release the rankings for the top-35 Knicks of all-time.

Tommy Beer is a Senior NBA Analyst and the Fantasy Sports Editor of Basketball Insiders, having covered the NBA for the last nine seasons.

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NBA Daily: Pat Connaughton Making Most Of Chance With Bucks

David Yapkowitz speaks with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Pat Connaughton about finding his way in the NBA, what he learned from being in Portland and how he’s looking to grow his game as a pro.

David Yapkowitz

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Opportunity can be everything in the NBA. A player unable to get off the bench isn’t always indicative of that player’s talent, nor is it an indictment on the coaching staff if said player ends up flourishing on another team.

The right situation and proper fit play a huge role in whether or not a player has success in the league.

For Pat Connaughton, he seems to have found that fit with the Milwaukee Bucks. Initially drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft, he didn’t play all that much his first couple of seasons. He played in a total of 73 games during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, averaging only 6.2 minutes per game.

He was a free agent following the 2017-18 season and chose to sign a two-year deal with the Bucks. His decision to come to Milwaukee had a lot to do with finding that right situation and a team that would allow him the freedom to develop.

“I was just trying to find a team where I liked everything that was going on. Milwaukee believed in me,” Connaughton told Basketball Insiders. “Last year, I was able to do some things on the floor that helped us out, and it kind of paid off. I think for me when you have coaches and management that believe in you, it goes a long way because you’re ready to take advantage of your opportunity.”

Connaughton actually saw his role increase a little bit during his final year with the Trail Blazers. He suited up in all 82 games and saw his minutes jump up to 18.1 from 8.1 the season prior. He put up 5.4 points per game and shot 35.2 percent from the three-point line.

But following the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, it seemed like moving forward he wouldn’t have as big a role in Portland, which is what led him to Milwaukee. Last season, his first with the Bucks, Connaughton became a valuable contributor off the bench on a team that made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

He put up a career-high 6.9 points per game and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 33 percent from the three-point line. He credits Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer’s system for the reason why he’s able to produce as well as he has.

“I think it’s the freedom that coach lets us play with. We’re able to have different options on ways to score and ways to make a positive impact on both ends of the ball,” Connaughton told Basketball Insiders. “I think that’s been a big benefit to me and I think the next step is obviously consistency. You’ve got to try to be as consistent as you can in this league.”

In order to maintain that consistency in terms of playing time and production, players often need to add elements to their game. Becoming a much more rounded player instead of limiting yourself to certain aspects of the game can often spell doom for players.

Back when he was in college at Notre Dame, Connaughton was always known as a good three-point shooter. In his four years with the Fighting Irish, he shot 38.6 percent from distance. Shooting is something that can definitely carry over to the NBA, and Connaughton actually shot 51.5 percent from three in his second year in the league.

But the advice he got from some of the Blazers veterans is what has stuck with him throughout his career thus far.

“When I came out of college people knew I could shoot, but I don’t think they necessarily knew how athletic I was. What I’ve been trying to do is continue to grow on that,” Connaughton told Basketball Insiders. “When I got to the league and I was following and learning from guys like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, the biggest thing I got was that – in order to not just stick around in the league, but to have success in the league – there were some things I had to improve.”

Starting last season and continuing into this season, not only do you see Connaughton spotting up at the three-point line, but you see him doing other things as well. He’s out there putting the ball on the floor and making plays for himself or his teammates. He shows his defensive versatility in being able to guard multiple positions.

“Looking at those weaknesses, instead of harping on them, I’m trying to improve on them and trying to work every day on my ball-handling, work every day on my body and athleticism, lateral quickness, things like that so I can guard multiple positions,” Connaughton told Basketball Insiders. “I can do things other than just shoot. You try to put those things together and on any given night you might be asked to do any of those things, and you’ve got to be prepared for it.”

It’s not always easy for players to make the adjustment to the NBA, especially when they’re not playing. The majority of players in the league know what it’s like to be the main focal point of a team either in high school or in college. The NBA can be a huge eye-opener and a humbling experience.

Sitting on the bench can be frustrating. Having gone through that in Portland, Connaughton knew that he had to keep a positive outlook and continue to work. He stayed prepared so that when this opportunity in Milwaukee came around, he was ready to take full advantage.

“You have to have the right mindset when you’re not playing. You can’t sulk, you can’t be a bad teammate with your body language. You have to understand it’s about more than one game, it’s about more than one year, it’s about the bigger picture. If you want to stick around in this league, you’ve got to try to improve day in and day out regardless if you’re playing or not,” Connaughton told Basketball Insiders.

“There’s always things you can do to improve your game so that when your opportunity comes, you’re ready for it. If you can stay ready, you don’t have to get ready. I think that’s been the biggest thing that I’ve learned is if you can continue to improve day in and day out and be ready to produce when you’re number is called, whenever that moment does come, you’ll be able to take full advantage of it.”

At the end of this season, Connaughton is going to have a big decision to make. He’ll be a free agent and could possibly be looking for a new home again. Although it’s still very early, all things considered, he wouldn’t mind staying in Milwaukee.

“At the end of the day, there’s a business side to the NBA. Regardless of what happens with me or what the team wants to do moving forward, this is a place I really enjoy being,” Connaughton told Basketball Insiders. “I enjoy the guys on the team, I enjoy the coaches, I enjoy the management, the owners. Really from the top down, I’ve found a place I really like being at. I’ll stay here as long as I can if they’ll let me.”

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NBA Daily: Load Management Draws Negative Attention for Clippers and NBA

Load Management seems to be a spreading trend across the NBA with no clear solution in sight, writes James Blancarte

James Blancarte

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The Los Angeles Clippers gotten off to a solid start this season, winning six of its first nine games. This has included wins over the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers. The first twenty-plus games of the season for the Clippers includes contests against several playoff-worthy opponents and certainly qualifies as a tough way to start the season. The addition of Kawhi Leonard has added the superstar talent and missing element that the team lacked last season.

So, what’s the problem? If you caught much of the dialogue around the league last week, the issue is the Clippers resting Leonard (notably on nights when the Clippers are playing on national TV). So far Leonard has sat two games, both of which the Clippers lost. So yes, this is an issue for the team (though Paul George is set to make his Clippers debut as soon as this week). But much of the criticism came from national spectators who felt that resting a seemingly healthy Leonard came at the cost of those who paid for tickets and viewers eager to see Leonard and the Clippers in nationally broadcasted games.

Then came the question and dialogue about whether Leonard is actually healthy. Star players not playing is not a new issue but the key is whether the player is healthy or not. Combatting the assumption that the Clippers were resting a healthy Leonard, the league put out a statement that Leonard was sitting due to issues relating to his knee.

“Kawhi Leonard is not a healthy player under the league’s resting policy, and, as such, is listed as managing a knee injury in the LA Clippers injury report. The league office, in consultation with the NBA’s director of sports medicine, is comfortable with the team medical staff’s determination that Leonard is not sufficiently healthy to play in back-to-back games at this time,” the League office stated.

With the criticism leveled down, Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers put the situation back in the spotlight by stating that the Leonard was healthy and the team chose to rest him seemingly out of precaution.

“He feels great, but he feels great because of what we’ve been doing. We just got to continue to do it. There’s no concern here. We want to make sure. Kawhi made the statement that he has never felt better. It’s our job to make sure he stays that way,” Rivers stated.

The league turned around and fined the Clippers for this response. The NBA put out a statement affirming that Leonard rested for health purposes relating to his “patella tendon in his left knee and has been placed by the team at this time on an injury protocol for back-to-back games,” League office stated and fined Rivers $50,000.00.

After a recent game against the Trail Blazers, Leonard was asked his thoughts regarding the NBA’s response to Rivers including the fine.

“That was just disappointing that it feels like they want players to play when they’re not ready,” Leonard said.

While Leonard made a point to stick up for his coach, it appears Leonard and the NBA have the same stated goal of protecting a player’s health so long as there is an injury concern. When asked more specifically whether he is healthy enough to play back-to-back games, Leonard provided some more detail.

“No. That’s not what the doctor is prescribing right now,” Leonard shared. “That’s all I can say about it. We’re going to manage it and keep moving forward.”

On the topic of Leonard’s game management, Toronto Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse’s recent comments with Eric Koreen of The Athletic also highlights how Leonard paced himself last season.

“I’m not sure I ever said this publicly last year, but about February of last year, I was like: ‘He’s not playing to his full capabilities. He’s cruising to his 30 points a night.’ I figured it could go one of two ways. He was going to cruise on out of here or he was going to flip a switch and try to win the whole damn thing. Obviously, we saw what happened,” Nurse told the Athletic.

Whether Leonard is healthy and pacing himself during the long season as Rivers seems to have suggested or managing an injury as the league stated, the result is the same. Leonard is resting on back to back games. That leaves the Clippers trying to overcome an additional hurdle to win and maintain pace in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

The team has continued to rely on the spectacular two-way play of bench stars Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams. Much like last year, the Clippers are also getting by with a balanced team approach. Of course, a superstar like Leonard helps to soothe a team’s occasional shortcomings. The Clippers’ 107-101 win over the Trail Blazers was aided in no small part due to an 18-point 4th quarter outburst by Leonard to elevate the team and come back.

Asked how he was feeling after the game, Leonard stated plainly he was fine.

“I feel good,” Leonard stated. “We won tonight.”

Moving forward, Leonard didn’t deviate and made clear the plan remains the same.

“We’re going to manage it the best way we can to keep me healthy and that’s the most important thing is me being healthy moving forward,” Leonard stated regarding load management. “It just helps from me from pushing forward from something that’s not ready.”

Again, where does all of this leave the Clippers and Leonard? The team has stayed afloat during this tough stretch of games to start the season. As Nurse pointed out, the Raptors won a championship resting Leonard and being careful with his health. He turned the proverbial switch on and the rest is history. The Clippers have picked up where the Raptors left off. Aiding their quest is the hope and assumption that the team will be further aided by the return from injury for their other star forward Paul George.

Beyond the Clippers, the NBA faces the ongoing issue of managing other teams that are sure to start resting their cornerstone players periodically throughout the course of a season. In fact, the Memphis Grizzlies just rested rookie Ja Morant less than 10 games into his NBA career.

“At the end of the day, our player care is the most important thing,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We want to make sure our guys are always put in successful situations, and it starts with our health and knowing we’re doing everything possible for them on and off the court.”

The NBA season is arguably excessively long with 82 regular-season games and the postseason afterward. This is another issue that the league is going to continue to deal with on a case-by-case basis. There is no perfect answer that will make everyone happy, so some sort of balance will have to be reached. For a team like the Clippers, taking a fine from the NBA every once in a while will be worth it if resting Leonard will lead to the same result that it did for the Toronto Raptors last season.

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NBA Daily: Gordon Hayward’s Short-Lived But Crucial Return

Gordon Hayward has dealt with adversity. Now, despite a recent injury setback, he would seem to be himself again on the basketball court. Chad Smith examines what that could mean to the Boston Celtics going forward.

Chad Smith

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Gordon Hayward’s career was flapping in the breeze just two seasons ago. A devastating leg injury left many questioning whether he would ever be the star player that shined with the Utah Jazz again.

Since, Hayward’s journey toward a complete recovery had been an arduous one. But, to start the 2019-20 season, it seemed as if the Boston Celtics’ patience was finally paying off.

Then, it happened.

With less than two minutes left before halftime against the San Antonio Spurs, Hayward was blindsided by LaMarcus Aldridge on a screen. He left the game and, later, x-rays confirmed that he had sustained a fracture in his left hand and was set to miss time.

Through their first eight games, Hayward was one of Boston’s best and just one of three Celtics to average more than 20 points per game this season. He had led the team in field goal percentage (56.4 percent) while also shooting an impressive 44.4 percent from beyond the arc, by far his shooting from distance since his rookie season.

His 39-point performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a near triple-double that tied a career-best scoring mark, in the very same Quicken Loans Arena where he suffered that gruesome leg injury was almost a signal: Hayward was back. He was dominant in every facet of the game, as he also finished with 7 rebounds, 8 assists and shot 16-for-16 inside the three-point line.

To provide some context, the only other player in NBA history to match that stat line was none other than Wilt Chamberlain.

After the game, the 10-year veteran said that the injury is gone from his mind; a crucial hurdle in his return to the fromer-Hayward. Without nagging, troublesome thoughts at the forefront of his brain, Hayward’s instincts with the ball in his hands proved better than ever, while the aggression he often displayed in Utah that pushed him into elite company had returned.

Heading into their duel with the Spurs, Hayward had averaged 20.3 points per game, a career mark second to his last season with the Jazz. Likewise, Hayward’s rebound (7.9) and assist (4.6) numbers were the best or near the best of his career.

And his rejuvenation couldn’t have come at a better time for Boston; with Jaylen Brown out with an illness and Enes Kanter nursing a leg injury, Hayward’s contributions were necessary for the Celtics to start the season the way they have. He isn’t the most athletic body, but Hayward knows the game well and understands how to utilize his tools on both ends of the floor, stepping up and filling in quite nicely on either end of the floor

That, coupled with the context of Hayward’s last two seasons, has only made this most recent setback all the more awful. The former All-Star appeared well on his way to a second appearance in the mid-season classic.

Meanwhile, Boston, after a season that can only be described as confusing and disappointing, was back to playing fun, winning basketball.

Even without Hayward, the Celtics made quick work of the Spurs. But, going forward, they are going to seriously miss their star on the wing. While, in the midst of a seven-game win streak, they sit atop of the Eastern Conference, Boston still has to deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami HEAT and other potential top-dogs in the conference.

For however brief a time he was back, Hayward was back to his old ways; he was aggressive on offense, stout on defense and put the team in a position to win every possession and every game. While his injury robbed us, the viewer, of his talent for the last two seasons, he overcame some major obstacles and was better for it.

With that Hayward, a key piece to the team’s Larry O’Brien puzzle and the same player that Danny Ainge and Co. inked to a four-year, max salary, the Celtics could go toe-to-toe with any of those aforementioned teams, or any teams in the NBA en route to an NBA Finals bid, for that matter.

But now, with him sidelined once again, Boston is certainly in for their share of struggles.

In a post on his website back in September, Hayward gushed about the upcoming season. And, amidst the chat of his return from injury and his prior relationship with Kemba Walker, his message was clear: “I’m ready to be the player I came here to be.”

Hayward will return, his injury not season-ending. And, while it may seem cruel or unfair, this minor setback is just that: a minor setback, a pitstop near the end of Hayward’s journey.

And, despite that setback, Hayward, if he hadn’t already, is well on his way to proving that he is, in fact, the “player [he] came here to be” (or better, even), something that not only the Celtics, but the whole of the NBA is glad to see.

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