Sportress of Blogitude

Kyrie Irving offers advice to Gordon Hayward ahead of Utah return

Kyrie Irving knows a thing or two about returning to one’s old NBA stomping grounds and utilized the knowledge gleaned from his experiences to relay some advice to Boston Celtics teammate Gordon Hayward.

The Celtics pay a visit to Salt Lake City on Friday for a showdown with the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. It will mark the first time Hayward will play in front of fans that cheered him on seven seasons since leaving Utah to sign with the Celtics as a free agent ahead of the 2017-18 NBA season.

Hayward suffered a gruesome ankle injury in his Celtics’ debut and was lost for the season, meaning he missed the team’s only trip to Salt Lake City last March. With Friday’s game undoubtedly creating some semblance of emotion and/or nerves for Hayward, Irving imparted some words of wisdom, summing it up by stating, “It’s just basketball.”

“Just try not to get too caught up into what the outside is going on. It really doesn’t matter. It really does not matter — like, at all. I know the love and support that he’s garnered there. Gordon’s a great person. Don’t allow competition in basketball to be influenced by what everybody else’s opinion and criticism and all that other stuff of what it should be like in an environment for him. If they boo him great. If they don’t great. It doesn’t matter at all.

“It’s just basketball, like, you know what I mean? If anything, he gave (seven years) of his career trying to be the best he could in Utah, and I give him credit for that. And he made a decision in his career, and in his life, for his family, to be better. I’ll leave it at that.”

Hayward is having a somewhat challenging time early on this season after such a long layoff and grueling rehab. The forward is averaging 9.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 25 minutes of on-court action. Odds are Hayward will shake of the rust at some point and return to form. Perhaps it will come Friday night in front of Jazz fans.