Basketball can be quite an unforgiving sport sometimes. One moment you’re a top name in the league destined to have your big breakout year. The next, you suffer an injury so horrific that it silences the crowd. Your season is effectively over and your career is possibly altered.
To give background to this story, former Utah Jazz forward and Butler Bulldog Gordon Hayward was one of the most sought after names in NBA free agency 2017. He was coming off a season which earned him his first all star selection, scored a career high twice, and was instrumental in helping the Jazz advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. On July 4th, he announced he was signing to the Celtics in what, a week later, was revealed to be a 4-year $128 million deal. Fast forward to the Celtics trade for Kyrie Irving and it looked like the Celtics were building to be a title contender and to challenge the Cavaliers. Boston honestly looked like a potential threat to LeBron’s quest for ring #4.
Last night, this hope and faith within Boston was derailed. A little over five minutes into the not only the first quarter of the season opener, but five minutes into his debut as a Boston Celtic, Gordon Hayward jumped to retrieve an alley oop pass from Kyrie Irving. Hayward collided with two different Cavs in the air, causing Hayward’s body to essentially flip. He landed awkward and the next sight silenced the crowd in Cleveland, drew prayers and covered eyes from players on both squads, an drew “oh my god” reactions from the commentators on TNT.
Hayward’s foot was facing 90 degrees away from his leg, he screamed and panted holding his leg. Medical personnel hovered around him for five minutes before placing his leg in a brace and transporting him to a locker room on a stretcher. After the game, Celtics coach Brad Stevens addressed reporters and said that the initial diagnosis is a dislocated ankle and fractured tibia. An injury that is likely to keep him sidelined until next season or at the very least, close to playoffs this season. Effectively, the Celtics are going to have to find a way to be productive without Hayward. It has since been reported that the injury was a clean break with no ligament damage which could potentially offer a slight glimmer of optimism in an other wise terrible situation.
Hayward is hurt. And so are the Celtics.
As a Pacers fan though, I couldn’t help but get horrible flashbacks when I saw his foot on TV. On August 1, 2014, then-Pacers small forward and franchise centerpiece Paul George broke his tibia and fibula during a Team USA exhibition match. The gruesome injury was also broadcasted live on TV. After surgery and diagnosis, Paul George was initially ruled out of the 2014-15 season. Pacers fans were shattered. Paul George was shattered. The entire NBA world was stunned. A marquee name suffered quite possibly a career altering injury that is most definite season ending.
Or so most people thought.
Paul George’s injury ended up not only being a clean break in a lucky spot with no ligament damage, but Paul George’s recovery moved faster than most people assumed. And with 8 games left in the same season he was ruled out of, PG13 returned off of the bench, receiving a much deserved standing ovation from the crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. By next season, Paul George not only looked like he recovered, but actually looked even better than he did before the injury.
Gordon Hayward’s injury is reported to not have any ligament damage, along the same lines as the Paul George injury. Gordon Hayward is also a young player just like Paul George, meaning that it is not unlikely that Hayward’s recovery could go much faster than people initially speculate. As long as Gordon is treated properly and recovers perfectly without any setbacks, it is not a long shot to suggest that Gordon could be back before playoffs, albeit in a role off the bench. Until then, Boston will have to find a way without him.