Late in the first quarter of Gordon Hayward’s first game with the Boston Celtics, I checked the online box score and discovered he had played only five minutes. That seemed weird. So I looked around, and there came the news of his injury.
A fractured left ankle took Hayward out of his Celtics debut Tuesday night in Cleveland, radically altering his and Boston’s season. If I ever wondered how I would view Hayward as a non-Jazz player, this turn of events gave me the answer. His injury hurt me to a surprising degree.
How about you?
It made for an interesting test of human nature, that’s for sure. Undoubtedly, some percentage of Jazz fans may have wished the worst for Hayward after he spurned their team and signed with the Celtics in July. But when Opening Night arrived and something resembling a worst-case scenario actually occurred, who could have found satisfaction in seeing him being wheeled off the court?
I’d prefer to think that Isaiah Thomas represented the collective thinking of Jazz fans. Thomas, not dressed for Cleveland because of his own health status, soon left the Cavaliers’ bench and joined Hayward in the locker room as he was being examined. Thomas was involved in the recruitment of Hayward to Boston. They never got to play together, but that didn’t keep Thomas from caring about him Tuesday.
In this moment, Hayward deserves only the best thoughts from Utahns who watched him play for seven years. In April, he was instrumental in the franchise’s first playoff series victory since 2010. And as the Jazz open the 2017-18 season Wednesday night vs. Denver, he will be missed.
Awaiting a timeline for Hayward’s return, my mind went to two dates on the calendar: Dec. 15, when the Jazz visit Boston, and March 28, when the Celtics come to Salt Lake City. A lot of Jazz fans have declared how they would treat Hayward when he returns to Vivint Smart Home Arena. Maybe this injury will merit a reassessment of those plans, now that we know Hayward is human.