On Thursday afternoon, Gordon Hayward crutched his way into his first media session since spraining his right ankle during Game 1 of Boston's first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers. For the veteran wing, who has suffered three significant injuries during his tenure in Boston, including two this season, there was no hiding the disappointment in knowing that he’ll likely be missing the next month of the Playoffs.
“It’s definitely gutting,” he somberly stated of the situation. “It sucks. There’s nothing else to say about that. It’s definitely frustrating. [The ankle] doesn’t feel great at the moment. Just try to get better as soon as I can.”
Hayward suffered the Grade 3 sprain during the fourth quarter of Boston’s Game 1 win when he landed awkwardly on the foot of teammate Daniel Theis. He immediately collapsed to the floor and then had to be assisted off the court and back into the locker room.
“I knew right away,” Hayward said of the significance of the sprain. “I heard it and felt it and knew it wasn’t just your casual rolled ankle. It was swollen by the time I was leaving the court, so I knew that it was definitely worse than normal.”
The recovery process is one that takes great patience and determination to get through. Having already been through a yearlong left ankle rehab during his first season in Boston, followed by a month-long rehab for a fractured left hand this past winter, Hayward knows exactly what lies in front of him.
“The mental side of rehab is by far more difficult than the physical side of rehab,” he explained. “There's a lot of time when you are alone and a lot of time when you are contemplating, a lot of time to think. The mental side is the hardest part. But I think having good people around you is very key, it's very important, and I definitely have that.”
Hayward has that support system with his family back home, and also with his Celtics family inside the NBA bubble. They’ll be there for him to get through the mental hurdles of not being able to participate during the early portion of the postseason, all while doing their best to fill his void on the court.
During Wednesday night’s 128-101 Game 2 win, Boston did a fantastic job of doing just that. Marcus Smart filled in for Hayward in the starting lineup, while reserves such as Romeo Langford, Enes Kanter, Brad Wanamaker, and Grant Williams all stepped up for the second unit.
“Obviously, no one can replace what Gordon brings to the team,” Wanamaker pointed out. “But me and the other guys on the bench just wanted to come out and just try to make up as much as we could by being aggressive and trying to make plays.”
That second unit was largely responsible for righting the ship for Boston after a rough start in the first quarter, as it helped to reset the tone on the defensive end. Hayward looked on proudly as his teammates carried on without him.
“I’m happy that we played well,” he said. “The nice thing about our team is we have a lot of talent, a lot of guys that can pick up the slack, so that's definitely a plus. I'm happy to see us playing well. I think we were playing our best basketball heading into this, so hopefully that we can continue that.”
Hayward, who had been playing his best basketball of the season entering the Playoffs, is understandably discouraged in knowing that he likely won’t be seeing the court for at least a few weeks. With that being said, he is familiar in dealing with significant injuries, so he understands exactly how to push through a situation like this.
“Just trying to take it day by day and just trying to attack rehab,” he said. “I've definitely been here before, so I know how to do that.”
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