Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving knows a thing or do about what it's like to go back to the place where one's professional career began. So as Gordon Hayward prepares to do so, Uncle Drew used his personal experience to pass on advice to his teammate.
The ninth pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Hayward spent the first seven years of his career with the Utah Jazz. He left in free agency after the 2016-17 season to reunite with his college coach at Butler, Brad Stevens, in Boston.
After he suffered a gruesome leg injury on opening night last season, however, Hayward couldn't suit up when the Celtics visited Salt Lake City in March. That means Friday's game will mark the All-Star forward's first appearance in Utah as a visiting player.
Irving recently spoke about Hayward's return, per The Athletic's Jay King:
Jay King @ByJayKing
Kyrie Irving's on Hayward's return to Utah: "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.” https://t.co/YdEDYnUkcg
"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."
It'll be different circumstances than when Irving returned to Cleveland for the first time last year. Hayward didn't request a trade out of town; he left as a free agent. Then again, he also didn't help his respective franchise win its first championship.
Regardless, it should be an emotional night for Hayward.