AUGUSTA LAKA CITY – Boston Celtics Wing Gordon Hayward knew that this night was coming.
Eventually, he would have to return to Salt Lake City – the city that spent the first seven years of his career. Eventually, he would have to face the boos of the fantastic he left for the Celtics.
Reunification is a year later than expected, but not less painful. The fans of Utah Jazz left him every time he touched the ball on the layup lines. His friends shouted before the game.
Brad Stevens said before the game that he knows how emotional this will be for Hayward.
"Apparently he spent seven great years here, and that meant a lot to him and his family," said Stevens. "I'm sure there are feelings going into it for the very best we can focus on what you can control and go from there. It would not be human not to recognize that there are additional feelings associated with it.
Hayward was part of Boston's semi-miraculous return to the Sun's Phoenix on Thursday. Friday's game will be a back-to-back.
"That was all this place," said Stevens. "This is the kick-test – the second night of a back-to-back on the same level as it's played – it's about the same, in that 23-26-minute range."
Still, Stevens expects Hayward to do well.
"We all live in their own home, and all of them handle it the way they handle it," said Stevens. "As time passes, it can be easier and easier, but the first time is always unique.
Other pre-game notes:
– The former Celtics wing, Jae Crowder, told reporters that he is still in contact with Isaiah Thomas. He said that Thomas is working for a return.
"He does not let him get the best of him," said Crowder. "Obviously, mentally can be a struggle for him, the times I talk to him says everything is going well, everything goes as planned, he's coming back soon, I'm happy about him."
Stevens praised Crowder's impact on Celtics during his time in Boston.
"Jae, along with many of his teammates, did an incredible job and continued this here," said Stevens. "From what I see from a distance the best start of the season, it looks very comfortable, it's in a great system, it suits exactly what Quin wants to do, can play from the bounce, play as a stretch four, play a number of our positions. Our desire as a team was to become more flexible and then Jae was much more versatile. There is one the reason his game looks so good and translates so well into this t ntomeno NBA.
– Terry Rozier will start Kyrie Irving.