Gordon Hayward fracturing his hand isn't the end of the world. The Boston Celtics forward should be back by the end of the calendar year and has endured far worse injuries.
But there's one factor about Hayward's injury that gives Danny Ainge pause, and it involves recent history.
In his weekly interview Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich," the Celtics president of basketball operations explained that Boston's biggest challenge with Hayward's injury won't be losing him for six weeks, but how to re-integrate him when those six weeks are up.
"Gordon has been playing so great. He's our most efficient player, shooting 57 percent from the field, having a terrific year," Ainge said. "So now, other guys have to do more. And so then when Gordon comes back, then other guys get to do less."
Does that scenario ring any bells? It should.
Many believe the genesis of the Celtics' struggles in 2018-19 were injuries to Hayward and Kyrie Irving that kept them out of the 2017-18 playoffs, allowing young players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier to take on much bigger roles.
When Hayward and Irving both returned at full strength last season, the "young guys" had to revert to their previous roles, an adaptation that seemed to splinter the locker room.
That tricky scenario -- specifically how it affects team chemistry -- isn't lost on Ainge.
"I think that (Hayward's injury is) a good opportunity for the guys on our team right now," Ainge said. "And then when Gordon comes back, trying to fit that back in is sometimes a challenge just when he returns to play.
"That's the only bummer about it. We were really developing -- there's been a lot of talk about chemistry on this team and they're great kids, but they're really figuring each other out on the court, too.
"So, now that takes a little bit of a step back, and you try to reinvent the rotations and reinvent everything when you lose a significant player like that."
These Celtics are built much differently than last year's Celtics, starting with Kemba Walker, who carries a strong reputation as an unselfish leader. Boston also has won two straight in Hayward's absence, and the team appears to be enjoying each other's company.
But as Ainge suggests, the real test for this team may come in the days and weeks following Hayward's return.
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