Pregame Post-Ups: Celtics Playing with Hayward in their Hearts

Wednesday, Oct. 18 - Bucks at Celtics

Pregame – Celtics Playing with Hayward in their Hearts

BOSTON – Gordon Hayward was transported to New England Baptist Hospital late last night after gruesomely dislocating his left ankle and fracturing his left tibia during the Boston Celtics’ season-opener in Cleveland.

One of his first visitors this morning was his mentor – and close friend – Brad Stevens.

Boston’s coach reported to the media ahead of tonight’s home opener against Milwaukee that he spent an hour with Hayward discussing the injury and the challenging road that lies ahead.

“He’s feeling down,” Stevens stated shortly ahead of tonight’s tip-off. “Obviously there’s a physical pain to it, but I think it’s doubled by the emotional pain in that he put a lot of effort into trying to start his career out well in Boston.

“This is a setback,” added the coach, who said he would not speculate on a timeline for Hayward’s return, at least until he undergoes surgery. “But we’re expecting a full recovery. We know there will be a lot of tough days ahead on that recovery, but at the same time, I think hopefully he’ll improve day-to-day.”

After his visit with Hayward, Stevens set his focus on the basketball-related tasks at hand. With Boston’s star wing out of the picture, he is putting his faith in the young Celtics talent to step up.

“We know that we have a long way to go, and we’re a team that’s going to be growing for a while, just merely due to the number of new guys and the amount of youth that we’re playing,” said Stevens. “But the exciting thing for our guys is they have the opportunity to step in and contribute. I think they want to do so for two reasons. No. 1 is that they want to do so because it’s an opportunity for them. And No. 2 is they do want to play well for Gordon.”

As spirit-crushing as Hayward’s injury was, it’s the type of incident that could add extra motivation for his teammates as they play with him in the back of their minds. His absence will also allow some of Boston’s younger players to earn more minutes toward their development.

“I think the biggest thing is they really care about Gordon,” said Stevens. “He’s made a big impact on them. He’s an easy guy to play with. He’s a guy you want to play with on both ends of the floor. So certainly you miss that and that camaraderie, but one of the tasks that we have now is to pick up steam for him. Guys that get opportunities that may not have, or guys that get opportunities from a more minutes standpoint need to be able to take advantage of those.”

The challenging journey starts at 7:30 p.m., as the Celtics attempt to move on without Hayward in their home opener against the Bucks.

- Taylor C. Snow