Gordon Hayward’s time with the Charlotte Hornets has not gone to plan. Injuries and a decline in effectiveness have led to his contract he signed ahead of the 2020-21 season being considered a bit of a disappointment. Even with all of that taken into account, that has not kept Hornets’ head coach Steve Clifford from having an optimistic outlook for Hayward.
In a recent interview with NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner, Clifford was directly asked about how much Hayward has “left in the tank“, Clifford would respond positively.
"“He has a lot left. This is his fourth offseason in Charlotte and it’s the first time he hasn’t been rehabbing from a significant injury. From talking to him you can tell he feels good about it. He’s always been an extremely hard worker, but I think he’s in a good place physically and mentally.”"
This is encouraging to hear, as the Hornets will need Hayward to make something resembling a positive impact this season. Hayward being “in a good place physically and mentally” is a good start for what hopes to be a productive season for the 33-year-old veteran.
However, everyone must be careful not to fall victim to coachspeak. It does not matter what the sport is or who the coach is there is always some level of coachspeak happening to some degree when speaking publicly.
Now in his fourth year in Charlotte, the Hornets do not need him to be the player they thought they were getting when they signed him to a four-year $120 million contract. All Hayward needs to be is a complementary role player for the Hornets while letting other, younger players such as LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges lead the team.
While paying someone $31.5 to not be a primary option on offense is far from ideal, everyone must have known this was a possibility when acquiring his services. Hayward has not been the same player since going down five minutes into the 2017-18 season. Charlotte is in a position to let the remainder of his contract run out, that is if they do not end up trading him during the season.