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Kyrie Irving to Gordon Hayward: ‘You are a great talent in this league, and I don’t want you to ever forget that’

BOSTON — Asked about Gordon Hayward’s ability in the pick-and-roll on Thursday, Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving took the opportunity to give out a very public vote of confidence to Boston’s recovering wing.

“We had practice yesterday and I told him, ‘Look for your shot more. Get aggressive and get yourself going because you are a great talent in this league and I don’t want you to ever forget that,'” Irving said. “Of course, he does a great job of coming off the pick-and-roll and making those passes, but I want him to be aggressive and score the basketball for us as well because we are going to need it down the stretch.”

The first 20 games of the season have been a struggle for Hayward, who was dropped from the starting lineup after a lackluster start. That was to be expected after all the recovery and rehab he underwent this summer, but the results have still been pretty ugly.

Hayward, a knock-down 3-point shooter prior to his injury, has hit just 29 percent of his triples so far. He’s shooting just 55 percent at the rim as well, which is in the 30th percentile among wings, according to Cleaning the Glass. Overall, his effective field-goal percentage is just 45.8 — 21st percentile among wings.

But since he was moved from the starting lineup to the bench, Hayward’s performance has been considerably less disastrous — the Celtics have been +10.2 with him on the court.

The missed shots, meanwhile, don’t bother Irving.

“Honestly, I think that he’s passing a little too much for Gordon’s potential and his talent,” Irving said. “I think, coming up in the next few games, he’ll be able to show some different things that he’s been on for the start of the season. Just being more aggressive offensively and looking for his shot more.”

Brad Stevens said Hayward looked better in practice the last two days.

“He was really good in practice yesterday, made a lot of very aggressive plays at the rim, and that’s a little bit of a next step,” Stevens said. “We’ll see how that translates. But he’s doing everything we could have asked. He’s been through a lot. At the end of the day he’ll be better in Game 40 than he was in Game 20, and 60 than 40 and so on.”

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