Celtics Calling on Multiple Bodies to Help Fill Hayward’s Void

BOSTON – Gordon Hayward was in the best groove of his Celtics career heading into this past weekend when he suffered a major setback. During Saturday night’s matchup in San Antonio, the veteran wing collided with Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge and fractured his left hand – an injury that could sideline him for several weeks.

Hayward had averaged 23.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game over the previous four contests and appeared to finally be back to All-Star form. Now, the Celtics have to find a way to make up for his substantial absence.

“It’s going to be tough because he was playing great, we were playing great as a team,” Jayson Tatum said at Monday morning’s shootaround before hosting the Dallas Mavericks. “But, it’s just next-man-up mentality. Next guy has to be ready.”

While there isn’t one player who can totally replicate what Hayward brings to the table, the Celtics are fortunate in that they have a bunch of well-rounded options who can all help to fill his void.

“I think we’ve got a lot of versatile guys,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I think each guy brings his own specialties to the table. We ask Gordon to do a lot. When he plays the way he’s been playing, everyone notices the stats, but it’s the simple reads and passes that we have to make up for when he’s not here. And obviously the rebounding as well. Those are things we have to do by committee, and I think our guys will be up for the challenge.”

Stevens mentioned three players in particular who he hopes will step up as playmakers during Hayward’s absence.

The first, obviously, is Kemba Walker, who serves as Boston’s primary ball-handler. The others are Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who have both shown improved abilities as playmakers already this season.

“Some of the things that we’ve run for Gordon that we go to, especially late in games, we’ll run for Tatum and we’ll run for Jaylen in different scenarios,” said Stevens. “And we’ve already played, out of eight games, we’ve played three of them without Jaylen already and most of them without (center Enes) Kanter (who has been cleared to return tonight from a knee injury). So the next guy needs to step up and be ready to play.”

The next step for Hayward is to find out whether or not his injury will require surgery. That decision will help determine the approximate timeline for his return to the court.

While the timing of the injury is surely disappointing for Hayward, Stevens reminds us that he’s been through much worse and there are ways in which the team can take advantage of his time out.

“He was frustrated; he was down. But this isn’t like last time,” Stevens affirmed. “I mean he’s going to miss some time, but whenever you miss a little bit less time, there can be a silver lining. There’s a lot of games. We’ve got an opportunity now for other guys to step up as he’s out. And that will be a real challenge. I mean we’ve got a tough schedule, and that’s been the case all along. But certainly, when one of your guys goes down, it’s just an opportunity for somebody else.”

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