BOSTON — Boston Celtics wing Gordon Hayward knows what’s coming.
A little over a week after the Celtics’ 117-113 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, he’s going to return to Salt Lake City for the first time since he left in the summer of 2017. Jazz fans have been bitterly awaiting their first opportunity to let him know how they feel about him in the wake of his departure.
“It’s been a year so hopefully not as vicious a booing, but I’m sure I’ll get booed,” Hayward said. “It is what it is.”
“Not as vicious” is probably a little optimistic. Jazz fans online are some of the most vengeful of any small market team that has lost a star to a bigger market. Hayward going down with a broken ankle last season temporarily stayed their vitriol, but none of it seems to have trickled away in the interim.
The Celtics have a pair of other players who left situations to join the Celtics: Kyrie Irving, who requested a trade from Cleveland, and Al Horford, who signed with the Celtics after leaving Atlanta. Both have returned to their former teams for road games, and both have been booed enthusiastically.
“Well first of all, Utah is a tough place to play to begin with,” Horford said. “And for him it’s going to be a lot of emotions, a lot of emotions, a lot of people you’re going to see — people that work in the building to ballboys and just reporters from there. Just everybody, it’s like a big homecoming. It’s a little overwhelming and it’s almost one of those things that you can’t wait just to get it over with. I’m sure he’ll go through all that and we’ve got a few games for him to get ready for that.”
Hayward said he appreciated all of his time in Utah.
“Great years in Utah,” he said. “I thank the Jazz for everything they did for me in my career. I’m looking forward to being able to play there. I was really looking forward to last year, obviously, that didn’t happen. It’ll be a good game, they are a good team.”
Nice sentiments. Hayward is still going to get booed.