Gordon Hayward Celtics‘ 135-115 win over the Spurs on Saturday, and there’s no other way to say it: This stinks. After almost two years battling back — both physically and mentally — from the catastrophic broken leg he suffered five minutes into the 2017 season, Hayward was finally looking like his old self. The Celtics were rolling, on top the Eastern Conference and perhaps one realistic trade away from championship contention.in the
And now this.
Everyone’s first reaction when this news scrolled across the screen was a sinking feeling. You feel awful for Hayward. You feel awful for the Celtics, who look like a genuinely happy group, like a black-and-white TV going to color, after basically having their season hijacked by Kyrie Irving’s mood swings last year. Kemba Walker’s radiant smile has been all over this team, but surely there was no smiling Saturday night, even in victory.
But all is not lost for Boston, or Hayward, and it’s important to remember that. It’s easy to jump to the worst-case scenario given Hayward’s history, almost a flashback reflex, but as Brad Stevens told reporters after the game on Saturday: “This one doesn’t feel nearly as bad as it did two years ago. He’ll be back. He’ll be off for a few weeks or a month or whatever he is.”
That’s obviously not an official timetable. Hayward will see a specialist on Monday, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, to determine whether he needs surgery. If he does require surgery, that will also reportedly take place on Monday. Stevens commented that if surgery ends up being the plan, it could actually shorten Hayward’s recovery time.
Either way, Hayward’s season is not over. And neither is Boston’s. Even if Hayward were to be out, say, three months, which is what Stephen Curry will miss with his broken hand, that would still put Hayward back mid-February — with almost two months to get back into rhythm for the playoffs. And chances are, Hayward will not be out three months.
There’s no denying this throws a big wrench in the rhythm Hayward was starting to develop, and that’ll take time to get back. Again. But the Celtics are loaded with big-time wings. Jayson Tatum. Jaylen Brown. Marcus Smart. Walker can carry a team by himself on many nights.
The point is, the Celtics are not going to just fall off a cliff while Hayward is out. They’re 7-1. They have a top-five defense. They rely on a lot of one-on-one play and Hayward was surely a big-time weapon on this regard, and he was one of their better playmakers, too. But Hayward, or anyone else for that matter, is not a singularly driving force of anything Boston does. This is a sum-of-its-parts team that clearly revels in the “go ahead and count us out” role. Adversity, in my opinion, is not going to cripple this team in the ay it might have, and in many ways did, last season. This team is together.
This team is also in the Eastern Conference, and that’s a HUGE factor here. You lose an All-Star player — which is exactly what Hayward was on track to be — in the Western Conference for any length of time, your season might be over before it even gets started. But Boston’s hole is not going to be that deep when Hayward gets back. Tatum, Walker and Brown are playing terrific. Marcus Smart might be the early Defensive Player of the Year favorite.
So get well soon, Gordon. And stay positive, Celtics fans.
Don’t let that collective smile get turned back into a frown.