Last night was opening night of the NBA season. All the fans were happy to finally see NBA basketball on their TV screens. The players were excited to get on the court and play with their teammates again or for the first time. All the excitement that the NBA season brings was thrown right out the window when Gordon Hayward went down with a horrific injury. I was not watching when this happened in real time. I look up off my phone and just see players with their hands wrapped around their heads and players kneeling in disbelief. Hayward is lying in pain, and there was nothing that could be done at that time.
The way the players and fans responded was phenomenal. It was at that moment when you realize there are things bigger than basketball. Hayward was seriously hurt playing the sport he loves and will be unable to play for however long it may be. As a sports fan you hate seeing a player go down with an injury, but this injury was something you never, ever want to see. The respect that was shown by LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas, and other opposing players proved that this is more than a game and these players are there for one another.
Coach Stevens said last night after the game that Hayward has a dislocated foot and fractured tibia. The timeline is unknown at this point, but the most you can do is pray Hayward makes it back to full health and goes back to being the player he once was. It’s sickening to see a freak injury happen like that, but it’s a risk of the game. I can’t wait for Hayward to come back and officially start his run as a Boston Celtic.
Besides all the sadness and shock that came with Hayward’s injury, there was some light that was shed in last nights loss. First of all, the jump Jaylen Brown has made from the end of last season to now is remarkable. He scored 25 points on opening night against the Cleveland Cavaliers and had no fear in his eyes when matching up against LeBron James. He looked smooth and confident while playing last night. I ate my words about wanting Marcus Smart to start over him. Jaylen is oozing with potential. He’s a second-year pro and is already dropping 25 points the first night against the Cavs? I’ll take it.
Jayson Tatum had an impressive NBA debut. In the first game of his NBA career, he played 37 minutes, scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Not only was Tatum the first rookie to start in his debut since Paul Pierce, but he was the first Celtics rookie to record a double-double in his debut since… Larry Bird.
Tatum held his own starting at power forward and made the most of his opportunities after Hayward went down. One positive I got from Hayward’s injury is that Jaylen and Jayson will have so much more room to grow now. They’ll get more playing time and opportunity to play in big, late-game situations. They’ll learn and develop much faster. My theory is that while Hayward is gone, Jaylen and Jayson will develop into absolute studs. Then Hayward will come back, and we’ll have a three-headed monster at the forward position. You can only hope, but they should make the most of this opportunity.
Kyrie didn’t put up insane numbers in his first game back in Cleveland, but let me tell you what. When Kyrie got traded to Boston, I was most excited because now he can showcase talents that he ever had the chance to showcase in Cleveland with LeBron. In his first game, Kyrie had 22 points and 10 assists. The 10 assists stood out the most to me because now Kyrie can become a true point guard, something he couldn’t have been in Cleveland with LeBron running the show. Kyrie will continue to get buckets like usual Kyrie would, but he now gets to take the role as playmaker and floor general by running point guard. Kyrie will have to take up some of the scoring load that Hayward leaves behind, but I’m hoping his playmaking continues to develop and stay consistent throughout the year.
All in all, I won’t lie to you; it was a pretty depressing night that was filled with optimism. Hayward going down just left me in a bad mood the rest of the game. Seeing the Celtics fight back from down 18 showed that the heart is still there. Seeing the kids show out the first game of the season made me feel confident that our future is set. Seeing Kyrie put up a double-double in his Celtics debut showed that we have our point guard of the future.
For the time being, the Celtics will play in honor of Gordon Hayward. Don’t forget that they have another game tonight against the Bucks. The season opener in Boston will be electric, and we need every fan to be at 100% to support the Celtics. I’m not at 100% right now, but by game time I’ll have my Marcus Smart jersey on ready to be rowdy.
This isn’t the end for Boston. One injury won’t break this team. They’ll continue to grow and adjust with Hayward gone, and once he does come back, the NBA will be put on notice. The chase for banner 18 is still on.