SAN ANTONIO – The sweep of a three-game road trip by the Boston Celtics turned somber Saturday night after they learned that star forward Gordon Hayward will be sidelined for the foreseeable future with a fractured left hand.
Hayward, who entered Saturday’s matchup with San Antonio averaging 20.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, suffered the injury with 1:34 remaining in the first half of Boston’s 135-115 win over the Spurs. The injury was sustained when Hayward collided with LaMarcus Aldridge, who was whistled for an illegal screen on the play.
“Broken hand, no timeline,” Brad Stevens said after Boston’s seventh straight victory. “Going to the doctors tomorrow, and (they’ll) decide if he needs to do surgery or not. It sounds like, should he decide that, the surgery option might actually be a better timeline. So we’ll see how that all plays out.”
The injury is a devastating blow to both the Celtics as a team and to Hayward as an individual.
Boston has been playing elite basketball this season and is tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the best record in the NBA at 7-1. Four of those seven wins were logged against teams that brought winning records into their matchup with the C’s.
Hayward had played a significant role in that success. He led the Celtics in scoring twice, and in assists and rebounds three times each through the first seven games of the season. He entered Saturday’s contest ranked third in the league among high-volume wings (minimum 75 field goal attempts) in true shooting percentage, at 64.9 percent, per NBA.com/stats.
He had returned to playing at an All-Star level, and now he’s been removed from Boston’s equation for the foreseeable future.
“It’s tough,” Jaylen Brown said of Hayward’s injury. “I don’t know what the timetable is, but that’s tough to deal with an injury, especially (because) Gordon’s playing really well right now and we’re leaning on him to help us with this season and this run that we’re trying to make.”
The Celtics also acknowledged after the game that the injury will cause a ripple-down effect on the rest of the roster.
“We’re definitely going to miss him,” said Kemba Walker, “but you know, we just need guys to step up. Now it’s our opportunity for other guys until he comes back and we just have to hold the fort down.”
Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart are all likely to see an uptick in their minutes and usage rates while Hayward is on the mend. Boston will also need reserve wings Semi Ojeleye, Javonte Green and potentially Romeo Langford to be prepared to make an impact every night.
Brown believes in the ability of those players, along with the rest of the team, to get the job done as a collective group.
“I think we’ve got a lot of good guys in this locker room, guys that have got the right mentality,” Brown said. “They put in the work, so I think we’ll be fine.”
Hayward, too, will be fine in the long run. This injury is to his off-hand and almost certainly will not cause him any long-term problems.
Still, the thought of a rehab process remains a raw subject for the talented wing. This is the same player who, just over two years ago, suffered one of the most horrific injuries in recent memory to his left ankle and battled for two years to get back to playing at the level he was this season. Walker briefly touched on that somber topic Saturday night.
“It’s tough, man,” he said. “Obviously he’s been through a lot with his old injury, and now this.”
Added Stevens, “It’s too bad.”
It most certainly is. The Celtics were rolling, and Hayward had been at the center of that success after he grinded for two years to regain his All-Star form. Now, it’s time for Boston to grind without him, and for Hayward to grind through yet another rehab process.
Such is life in the game of basketball, but things could be worse.
Hayward will be back in due time, and the Celtics will pick up right where they left off with him Saturday night. In the meantime, Boston will face more challenges on a nightly basis as it attempts to maintain its early-season success without him.
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