Gordon Hayward injured his ankle in the Celtics’ Game 1 win over the 76ers yesterday.
The outlook isn’t great.
Celtics forward Gordon Hayward suffered a Grade III sprain of his right ankle during the fourth quarter of last night’s game against Philadelphia. He is expected to miss approximately four weeks.
In four weeks, the conference finals are scheduled to begin. Boston has a chance to get there.
But it will be more difficult without Hayward. This could easily be a season-ending injury. Hayward also planned to leave the bubble for the birth of his child next month.
The Celtics’ strength was the quality and versatility of their wings – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Hayward. With all three, Boston could often get at least one into a favorable offensive matchup and switch defensively.
Expect Marcus Smart to take an expanded offensive role, especially when Kemba Walker rests. But the Celtics might be hesitant to start Smart, who works so well off the bench.
How will the Celtics more directly replace Hayward?
Brad Wanamaker can provide some of Hayward’s passing. Romeo Langford can provide some of Hayward’s scoring. Semi Ojeleye can provide of Hayward’s defensive versatility.
But only Hayward offered the total package.
Instead of trying to duplicate Hayward’s production piecemeal, Boston could also shift its approach and go bigger with power forward Grant Williams getting more minutes.
The Celtics’ depth gives them plenty of (imperfect) possibilities. That’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s on Brad Stevens to find a solution quickly in the midst of a competitive-looking playoff series. Game 2 is tomorrow.
Beyond, Hayward was already expected to exercise his $34,187,085 player option for next season. This setback makes it only more likely. Hayward has had a rough time with his health.