It was the same play Gordon Hayward had run many times before with the Utah Jazz, and in practice with the Boston Celtics.
But on an alley-oop gone terribly wrong, the broken leg he suffered in the season-opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers will keep him out for the remainder of the season.
Hayward opened up about the injury in a lengthy Facebook post, writing about the lack of initial pain, the secondary pain and the panic that set in.
“Immediately, I knew something was off, but when I landed, it wasn’t a huge amount of pain,” Hayward wrote on Wednesday. “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.”
In his blog post, Hayward said his leg was caught underneath, creating the injury. One of his first thoughts was if he will be able to return to the game. Then, it became if he will be able to ever play again.
Following the injury, Hayward said he remembered his teammates coming to encourage him, along with Cleveland star LeBron James. His coach, Brad Stevens, was one of the people who helped get him on the team plane, so he could return to Boston for surgery. He recalled the emotion, and said the support from so many overwhelmed him and would never be forgotten.
“My parents, who had come to the game, wound up flying home with me — my mom sitting next to me, my dad across from me,” Hayward wrote. “Our trainers, Art Horne and Brian Dolan, were there helping me, too. They had a table where I could put my leg up and keep it elevated, so I sat there in the chair the whole flight, and tried not to move.”
Without Hayward, the Celtics lead the Eastern Conference with a 6-2 record. They aren’t as good without Hayward, but they are shaping up as the best defensive team in the east.
Hayward said he will recover and return next season. He’s already embarked on the beginning stages of rehabilitation.
“Now, it’s all about getting back,” Hayward said. “Time to begin.”
With the Jazz being such a good defensive team, coach Quin Snyder and his staff have been focused on bettering an offense that’s struggled at times. Wednesday night’s first half showed more of the same, as the Jazz scored 39 points in the first two quarters. ... Salt Lake City native Caleb Swanigan didn’t play during the first half of his initial return home as an NBA player with the Trail Blazers. He said he spent Tuesday with extended family, before preparing for the Jazz on Wednesday. “It’s definitely good to be home,” Swanigan said. “This is where I grew up, so this is special.”