Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward publicly addressed his horrific left leg injury for the first time on Wednesday and made it clear he does not anticipate returning to the court at all this season.
“The Celtics organization has been just over the top in every aspect,” Hayward wrote in a blog post on his Facebook page. “They know I will not be back on the court at all this season, but they have been making sure I have every resource I need, and are making me feel like I am a part of the team.”
He added, “It’s hard mentally to watch the games because I’m sitting here thinking, ‘I’m not going to be able to help the team on the court this year.'”
There were still some holding out hope Hayward may return in April if the Celtics made a playoff run, because reports indicated he suffered a clean break and no ligament damage. The former is true — “fixing the bone … was the most straightforward and easy thing,” he wrote — but there were “ligaments that I tore.” What Hayward did avoid was cartilage damage, which means he will likely make a full recovery.
“Immediately, I knew something was off, but when I landed, it wasn’t a huge amount of pain,” Hayward wrote of his recollection of the injury. “I rolled over and saw my foot, and it was pointed in completely the wrong direction. My first thought was, ‘Oh. This isn’t good. There’s something very wrong here.’ I felt a sense of panic come over me and signaled to the ref, ‘Hey, look at this. You’ve got to stop the game.’ And still, it didn’t seem like it was hurting that much.
Then all of a sudden, it came.
Hayward described in detail the emotions he felt in the aftermath of the injury and the steps he’s taken toward recovery. He recalled the pain of the Cleveland Cavaliers team doctor popping his ankle back into place, and that he initially wondered if his career was over as he was being carted off the court.
He remembers LeBron James consoling him, Isaiah Thomas praying for him, Paul George contacting him and former President Barack Obama emailing him. Hayward thanked everyone who has helped on his early road to recovery, especially his wife and two young daughters, and Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who helped carry him onto the plane, stayed with him in the hospital until 2 am. that night and came back the next day to see if he needed anything. (Hayward asked for a basketball, and Stevens sent him one.)
Having barely slept and on the verge of going into surgery, Hayward barely remembers filming the video message that the Celtics aired on the TD Garden’s Jumbotron just before their home opener.
Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said soon after the surgery it was “unlikely” Hayward returns this season, and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge left a similar door open for that longshot possibility. But it sure sounds as though Hayward does not anticipate playing until 2018-19.
“I keep imagining what it’s going to be like to step onto the floor at the Garden, and make my regular season debut as a Celtic,” Hayward wrote. “It’s going to be a little delayed. But with each day of my rehab, I’ll be that much closer to making it happen. I’m already dreaming about sharing that moment with everyone here in Boston — a city that I’m still getting to know, but that I’ve connected with through all of this in ways beyond anything I could have imagined.”
Hayward could only recently stomach watching Celtics games, but he’s since decided to join the team and help out in any capacity he can, “whether it’s breaking down film or just providing leadership and guidance.” He even recognized the opportunity his absence presents for Boston’s younger players.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) November 1, 2017
Stevens announced on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Wednesday that Hayward has recently transitioned from a hard cast to a walking boot and has already started shooting from a chair. Hayward is scheduled to meet with the Boston media on Thursday morning for the first time since his surgery, and NBC teased Matt Lauer’s exclusive sitdown interview with Hayward on Thursday’s “Today” show.
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