Not Again! Ex-Celtic Gordon Hayward Starts Hornets Career With Injury

Gordon Hayward, Hornets forward

Getty Gordon Hayward, Hornets forward

Stop us if you’ve heard this before, Celtics fans, but Gordon Hayward is hurt. He is in Charlotte now, so it is not a problem for Boston, but still, a guy who had trouble staying healthy in his rocky three-year NBA stint with the Celtics is once again dealing with an injury.

Hayward has a broken bone in his pinky finger, what the statement from the Hornets termed an, “avulsion.” He is not expected to require surgery and is listed as day-to-day. Still, with the start of the NBA season just days away, Hayward is looking at missing the season opener and possibly more.

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Hayward left the Celtics this offseason when he went to Charlotte on a max deal worth $120 million over four years, in a sign-and-trade. He opted out of the final season of his Celtics contract to do so, and while it originally looked as though he was headed to Indiana in a Celtics-Pacers trade, that deal was scotched and Charlotte came in with an enormous offer.

For some, it was too much money for a guy who has had trouble staying healthy. But GM Mith Kupchak defended the signing earlier this month.

“There were other suitors for Gordon,” Kupchak said. “It was a vibrant market. It wasn’t like there wasn’t only one team that wanted his services. I don’t know if we paid more or not. I know we paid a lot of money but he was making almost $32 or $33 million when he opted out.”

Gordon Hayward Suffered Major Injuries With Celtics

Hayward signed with the Celtics to great fanfare in 2017, when he was a free agent and, arguably, the biggest free-agent signing in Boston’s history. The Celtics were able to leverage the longstanding relationship between Hayward and Brad Stevens, who was Hayward’s coach at Butler University, to bring him to Boston.

But Hayward’s Celtics career got off to a terrible start when he broke his ankle five minutes into his debut, and was not able to play again in the 2017-18 season.

The injury lingered into his second season with the Celtics, when he played 72 games but was clearly not the same player. Hayward averaged 21.9 points for Utah in the year before he arrived in Boston, but averaged just 11.5 points for the Celtics in 2018-19.

By the time last season came around, it was clear that the Celtics’ two other primary forwards—Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown—had become franchise cornerstones, rendering Hayward less important. He had a good year (17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists), but played only 52 games, missing a month after breaking his hand in November.

Hayward was also injured in the first game of last season’s playoffs and was out a month, recovering from a Grade III ankle sprain and returning for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Celtics Will Adjust Roles to Replace Hayward

The Celtics did not directly replace Hayward in the offseason, using their money to bring in center Tristan Thompson and point guard Jeff Teague. But both of those guys will help fill in the gap left by Hayward.

Thompson will allow the Celtics to use Daniel Theis off the bench more as a power forward, a position Hayward manned frequently with Boston. Teague will be a ballhandler off the bench, an area in which the Celtics were lacking last year—and a role Hayward wound up filling at times.

Still, they are thin behind Brown and Tatum. Second-year man Grant Williams will be used as a backup at power forward, and rookie Aaron Nesmith could get time as a reserve small forward.

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