What Does Gordon Hayward’s Injury Mean for the Celtics?

Charlie Krumsiek ’20
Sports Editor

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward was injured in the team’s 135-115 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, Nov. 9. It was reported that he has broken his left fourth metacarpal or, for those of us who are not pre-med, his ring finger, after taking a charge from LaMarcus Aldridge. It is known as a “Boxer’s Fracture” and typically does not take much time to come back from; reports this week say he will miss six weeks. Since the injury was not to his shooting hand, it will hopefully be a relatively minor issue for him once he comes back. 

This remains a very unfortunate injury for Hayward and for the Celtics, both of whom appeared to be finding a good groove. Hayward’s 2018-2019 campaign was a disappointing season, as it never quite seemed like he could regain the consistency of the player he was before his gut-wrenching 2017 ankle injury. Averaging 19 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, he had a strong case to be the best player on the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics. In the small sample size that we saw of him this year, he looked confident and was finding his spots on the floor with ease. His personal success translated to success for the Celtics as well, leading to a 7-1 record, not only the best record in the East, but in the entire league. The good news about the injury is that it looks like the fracture avoided damaging anything major, so his return is expected to be much sooner than Steph Curry’s likely return.

So now what do the Celtics do in the meantime? Fortunately, they have had a log jam at the wing position, splitting time between Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye, and now Romeo Langford. Coach Brad Stevens has been cycling through the first four in this list, while Langford has been recovering from an offseason injury. Langford, a rookie, was the Celtics first pick in the draft last year and was sent down to the Maine Red Claws to try to get some minutes before making his debut for the Celtics. This injury will likely mean that he will start to get 10-15 minutes per game as Stevens typically likes to keep his players in the low 30s for minutes. Langford was a one and done college player at Indiana, but impressed in his Red Claws appearance, scoring 23 points and tallying 5 blocks. Hopefully he, along with the rest of the bench unit, can collectively replace what Hayward was doing this year. 

Using the reported six-week recovery timeframe for Hayward’s injury, the forward could return to action right around Christmas. They play 19 games between now and then and eight of those games are against likely playoff teams. This will be a good test of the Celtics’ depth, which features a number of other rookies. While they sit atop the conference now, the Celtics have not faced many great teams so far this year. Hayward’s success to start this season was integral in picking up the slack when other starters were struggling. Without him, they will need to find that offensive production elsewhere.

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