The Boston Celtics seemingly had Game 1 in the books, a time to rejoice and celebrate yet another postseason victory over Philadelphia.
But with less than four minutes to play, Gordon Hayward went up for one last rebound, only to land awkwardly, twist his ankle and … we all know the rest.
“I knew right away. I heard it and felt it,” Hayward said. “Immediately, it was swollen by the time I left the court.”
Having suffered multiple injuries during his time in Boston, Hayward is all too familiar with the rehabilitation process after being diagnosed with a Grade 3 ankle sprain that should keep him out for at least a month.
That experience with injuries has made him acutely aware of the challenges that lie ahead, both from a physical and mental standpoint. And while both will prove challenging, Hayward says the mental hurdles awaiting anyone dealing with a long-term injury are far more challenging than the physical ones.
Keeping a positive attitude while avoiding the negative thoughts that can creep into the psyche is critical to a speedy recovery.
“It’s hard not to get into that,” Hayward said. “Teammates, family, mentors, having good people around you helps with all that. Like I said, take it day by day and just try to attack the rehab. Definitely been there before so I know how to do that.”
Hayward is still with the team in Orlando, Fla., although him departing the Bubble was in the plans at some point due to he and his wife Robyn welcoming their fourth child.
As far as the timing of when he might leave for that and this recent injury, Hayward said the two are separate issues at this point.
“It’s unfortunate the timing of the whole deal,” he said. “Just try to take it day by day. Look at scheduling for the baby and all that. It’s … taking it day by day.”
The injury will keep Hayward sidelined for at least a month and add yet another chapter into the injury-riddled narrative of Hayward’s time as a Celtic.
But this setback hurts more than the others because of the way Hayward was playing.
Going into the restart to the season, Hayward was in a nice rhythm for Boston, mixing in a smooth blend of scoring, rebounding, defense and playmaking. As the team’s fourth option, the Celtics had every reason to believe that their journey towards a trip to the NBA Finals for the first time in nearly a decade would hinge in part on Hayward’s ability to continue playing at a high level.
And just like that, the Celtics now find themselves trying to pick up the pieces and find adequate replacements — yes, that’s plural not singular — for Hayward, who once again finds himself sidelined.