Celtics

Gordon Hayward ready to get through Utah return with assist from Kyrie Irving

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

PHOENIX -- Just as the locker room opened up to the media in the wake of Thursday's overtime win over the Phoenix Suns, Gordon Hayward was already dressed and ready to head out to the team's bus.

After months and months of anticipation about his eventual return to Utah, Hayward did not want to face one more night of questioning ahead of the showdown itself. That in itself is very understandable.

It has not been the smoothest road for Hayward in his return to the floor this year, as he's struggled with a minutes limit and uneven performances following a year-long recovery from ankle surgery. The pressure of facing Jazz fans would be a tall burden on its own after leaving the team in free agency in the summer of 2017. Doing so while dealing with the obstacles that have piled us as he tries to acclimate to this Celtics squad and get back into top basketball form is a stiffer challenge. There's no doubt it will be nice for him to check off the Utah return box as he continues his recovery after a year delay.

"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."

Time may ultimately heal all wounds but Hayward knows what will be waiting for him in Utah upon his return.