The veteran forward suffered a sprained right ankle during the fourth quarter of Monday night’s Game 1 playoff win over the Philadelphia 76ers. The C’s announced Tuesday that Hayward is expected to miss about a month with the injury.
Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston’s coverage of Celtics-76ers Game 2, which begins Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.
Hayward averaged 17.5 points per game during the regular season and is capable of stretching the floor with consistent outside shooting. But the impact Hayward makes extends well beyond putting up points.
In an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub radio show “Toucher & Rich” on Wednesday morning, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge explained how Hayward’s injury will affect the team in several ways.
“The Gordon injury is devastating to us,” Ainge said. “I’m not sure the average fan understands how important he is — just because Jaylen (Brown) and Jayson (Tatum) are really coming into their own, Kemba’s (Walker) had his unbelievable moments this year. Gordon is a facilitator. He’s our most efficient offensive player, but he doesn’t have the same kind of usage that the other guys have. He’s very unselfish, and yet he’s capable of taking games over at times when we need it, when guys are resting. He has been a leader of our bench group oftentimes.
“It’s just crushing for him and it really hurts our team. I don’t know how long he’ll be out. I think we’ll know more in the next four or five days and see how the swelling responds. But I feel bad for Gordon as well. I know how hard he’s worked just to get himself back ready for this opportunity.”
In addition to being able to score 20-plus points, Hayward also is a valuable playmaker for the C’s. He’s capable of being the primary ball-handler and running the offense on the second unit. He can also serve in this role with the starting lineup, which allows star point guard Kemba Walker to play more off the ball. Hayward’s ability to defend shooting guards and small forwards gives Boston defensive versatility as well.
The Celtics shouldn’t have too much trouble eliminating the 76ers in their first-round series without Hayward. The Sixers are without All-Star point guard Ben Simmons (knee surgery) and don’t have the offensive firepower to match the C’s. Hayward’s absence would be felt much more in the second round and beyond, where Boston’s bench will really have to shine to make up for the scoring and playmaking the 10-year veteran provides on a nightly basis.
Danny Ainge gives honest take on how Gordon Hayward injury impacts Celtics originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston