Storyline: Gordon Hayward Injury

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Gordon Hayward: Every morning is basically the same. Massage work. Balance work. Lift. Low Load circuit. Conditioning. Stuff on the court. Four or five hours go by. It’s pretty monotonous, and it’s not fun. I’m just trying to get through it. The biggest change is that I’ve been out of the brace for a couple weeks now, and everything is feeling pretty good. It definitely feels good to walk around the house without the brace. The act of walking finally feels normal. That’s really nice. Some of the balancing activities that I’m doing now are kind of an upgrade from the balance activities I was doing before. I’m able to do it for longer periods of time. I’m able to do calf raises for more reps and some weight, like wearing a weight vest. And I am slowly progressing with the AlterG.

Gordon Hayward: On a basketball court, I’m still limited to doing things where I’m basically standing still and then taking maybe one step. Everything is flat-footed. So I can do a dribble pull-up, and though I don’t jump in the air, I still do the dribble and the step. On finishes around the rim, I can do a step and finish, but staying on the ground. That’s kind of where I’m at right now. I’m doing all dribbling drills and passing drills, but just stationary, or slowly walking across the court. I can’t really jump or do any big-time movements like that.

Gordon Hayward: It’s been a few weeks since my last blog entry. I’m deep in the rehab process now, just grinding. Every morning is basically the same. Massage work. Balance work. Lift. Low Load circuit. Conditioning. Stuff on the court. Four or five hours go by. It’s pretty monotonous, and it’s not fun. I’m just trying to get through it. The biggest change is that I’ve been out of the brace for a couple weeks now, and everything is feeling pretty good. It definitely feels good to walk around the house without the brace. The act of walking finally feels normal. That’s really nice.

Gordon Hayward: On a basketball court, I’m still limited to doing things where I’m basically standing still and then taking maybe one step. Everything is flat-footed. So I can do a dribble pull-up, and though I don’t jump in the air, I still do the dribble and the step. On finishes around the rim, I can do a step and finish, but staying on the ground. That’s kind of where I’m at right now. I’m doing all dribbling drills and passing drills, but just stationary, or slowly walking across the court. I can’t really jump or do any big-time movements like that.

Russell played on 11 of the Celtics’ 17 NBA championship teams. Brown, on a Celtics squad that overcame the loss of All-Star newcomer Gordon Hayward to own the East’s best record, believes this team has the talent to make a run at accomplishing this year what Russell did 11 times. “I’m not surprised at all. Not one bit,” Brown said of the Celtics play sans Hayward. “I think we have a lot of talent. I don’t know if people see it that way. But we have a very talented group with a lot of young guys that can really play. With a good coaching scheme and a balance, I think that’s why we are doing so well. Everybody stepped up.”

Gordon Hayward couldn’t get the image out of his head. Lying in bed at night, the All-Star would close his eyes and try to lull his mind to sleep, but he would see it anyway: his left foot gruesomely bent sideways, the wrong way. Most nightmares are figments of the brain’s imagination. But for Hayward, this horror story was real. “You lay awake, you can’t fall asleep,” Hayward tells B/R Mag, looking back at the first sleepless nights following his traumatic injury in the Boston Celtics’ season opener.

Livingston still sees it. Over a decade has gone by since a 21-year-old Livingston landed awkwardly on his left leg during a game against the Charlotte Bobcats, dislocating his kneecap and rupturing just about every tendon in the knee joint. But even after his two championship runs with the Golden State Warriors, the daily reminders won’t let him forget that image of his deformed knee. But injuries like Hayward’s often rip open an emotional wound. Seconds after Hayward went down, Livingston’s phone inevitably blew up with the news and photos of the injury. But the Golden State guard couldn’t bring himself to watch the clip. “I don’t watch those plays anymore,” Livingston told B/R Mag. “The eyes are the windows into the soul. It’s just a mental standpoint about not putting that stuff into your head.”

“The unfortunate part of it is the reality that [the Celtics] have got to keep playing,” Livingston says of Hayward’s situation. “The league still has games. Contracts are still in order. It’s just part of it. The sooner that you accept that reality, the easier it is to attack the rehab.” There were days when Livingston didn’t want to get out of bed. Wanted to take the day off. But his friend Art Jones knocked on his door every morning and didn’t stop pounding until Livingston got up. “Gordon Hayward can overcome it,” Shaun Livingston says. “He can get back to the same player he was with the right team around him—which I know he’ll have—and the right mindset. There’s definitely no stopping him. This won’t stop him. I know he’s going to get through it. But my line is open.”

Seconds after watching Gordon Hayward’s injury, George fought off the nausea, grabbed his phone and texted his former Team USA teammate. They talked later that night on the phone. George emphasized the mental side during his constant texting to Hayward. Paul George’s message: It’s OK to feel down. “With the nature of the injury, there’s going to be rough days and good days,” George says. “Some days, I felt really good and I felt like I was ready to turn that corner. And then right after that, next day, I felt like I was back at square one. There was pain in the leg again. It was hard to walk, hard to move. It felt like I wasn’t progressing like the previous day. That was the rough patch mentally.”

Tatum and Brown could not replicate Hayward’s ball-handling, so coaches installed more post actions for them. The next night, the Celtics won at Philadelphia, in front of a hysterical crowd. And then a strange thing happened to the contender that supposedly dropped from contention. They didn’t lose again for a month, coming back from 18 points down at Oklahoma City, 13 down in the fourth quarter at Dallas and 12 down in the fourth without Irving against Charlotte. “I think Gordon’s injury made us closer,” says guard Terry Rozier. They were a blast to behold, for everyone but the person who brought them together.

No one expects Hayward to return this spring, but no one completely shuts the door. It’s cracked, because who knows how far Boston will advance and how fast Hayward will mend. In 2006, 76ers forward Shavlik Randolph was practicing four months after a broken ankle, though he wasn’t at full strength for about a year. “I was terrified when it happened that I wouldn’t be able to ever play again because it hurt and looked so bad,” Randolph texted from China, where he is with the Beikong Fly Dragons. “But it did not affect me long-term…. It will be just a matter of how long it takes to get his strength and mobility back. Different people get that back at different rates, but he is an elite athlete with a terrific work ethic, so I don’t see any reason why he doesn’t get all of it back relatively quickly.”

Hayward appreciates any optimism, but he is reluctant to entertain it, not when he is finally sleeping again. “Wishing to be on the court, trying to be on the court, those are the thoughts that kept me up at night,” he says. Cobbs and Randolph cannot relate to the attention focused on Hayward’s ankle, now protected by a small black brace. According to Google, the most-searched athlete in the United States in 2017 has been Floyd Mayweather. Second is Gordon Hayward. He does not venture out in public often, staying home with Robyn and their daughters, two-year-old Bernie and one-year-old Charlie. The family’s German shepherd, Siber, patrols a backyard ringed with pine trees. But Hayward visited two Boston children’s hospitals this month, and as he sat at bedsides and listened to stories, he felt the patients were doing more for him than he was for them. “Man,” he thought, “I’ve got it made. I just broke my ankle. That’s nothing.”

Gordon Hayward: I’m making progress in therapy as well. I’ve been going into the facility every day, and working with the trainers there on a lot of different things. We start with massage therapy and soft tissue work on my whole leg, foot, and ankle, trying to get some of the swelling out. After that, I do some manual resistance stuff, leg extensions, leg curls and that type of thing. The goal there is to achieve better range of motion, and maintain strength in my hips, and my calf, and quad. Next, I do some balance work. Originally I was just balancing on my right foot, but we’ve made progress to the point I’m now able to balance on two feet. The next step is going to be balancing on my left foot. I’m also doing work with that foot to gain strength and range of motion, things like towel scrunches and marble pickups, where you pick the marbles up with your toes and put them into a box.

It’s Gordon Hayward injury update week here on Celtics Wire, with the man himself joining the Dan Patrick Show to dive into his mentality surrounding his recovery from a broken ankle. Do you need to wait until you feel mentally the same as you did before the injury? Gordon Hayward: “That’s 100% true. The play that we ran there, I’ve done that play maybe 60-70 times next year. I think when I’ll be 100% is when I’m able to run that exact same play and not think about it twice. That’s another hurdle at the end there where I may be physically 100-percent, but I have to be mentally there as well.”

How realistic is getting back or is it just a mindset to prepare for this year? Gordon Hayward: “I work out every day to try to increase my range of motion and increase my strength in my legs so that I can be back as fast as I can. Whether that’s this year or this summer or next year, I will just let that happen. But for sure, as a competitor, I’m just trying to come back faster than anyone has ever done it. They keep me to a pretty strict protocol, so that’s just what I do.”

In an interview with Sirius XM’s Justin Termine and Eddie Johnson, the Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations discussed how Hayward is working to pick up where he left off at some point in the future. The answer as to when that may happen is still as opaque as it was a few months ago. “I don’t even want to go there. I’m not sure. That’s just all speculation,” Ainge said when asked if he could just come back in the postseason if he’s healthy. “Gordon – he didn’t rule it out – but we’re all just sort of are not putting any pressure. We’re just letting the course take itself and we’ll see what happens. But he’s coming along quickly.”

More than 50 days have passed since Hayward suffered his grisly injury, and on this night there are few obvious signs that it happened at all. His cast was replaced by a walking boot after two weeks, and now the walking boot is gradually being phased out in favor of a small, nonintrusive brace, which he is wearing now. Last week, he was told he did not need crutches anymore. On the court, he can now stand still and shoot baskets, a major step after weeks of firing them from a padded chair. As the Celtics stormed to a 22-5 start, it became tantalizing to wonder what they might be with Hayward. And given his consistent progress, and the fact that more than four months remain in the regular season, it is impossible not to wonder if there is a chance, however slim it might be, that he could be back this year.

Hayward admits that he thinks about it, too. But he immediately cautions that there can be dangers in looking far ahead. He has made this progress by tackling obstacles one by one, and he knows the last, most massive one remains distant. But yes, of course he is aware of it. Of course he would like to play for the Celtics this season. “It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” Hayward said. “I’m definitely pushing to get back as fast as I can, while making sure that I still have a lot of good years of basketball in me. And coming back early and hurting something else is not part of that plan. So I’m making sure that if I come back, I’m one-thousand percent confident in myself and my leg. I hope more than anything I can play this season. That would be awesome. But that’s not something I’m stressing about. I’m stressing about what I can do today to help myself get better.”

His return date, of course, remains unclear. The Celtics have been cautious, consistently saying they do not expect Hayward back this season. Hayward does not expect it, either. He does not like to think that far ahead. But he is also an undeniably fierce competitor, and there is no better motivator at the end of this long, trying journey than playing in an NBA game again. “I feel like for me it’s better to just tell myself, ‘Let’s be better today than I was yesterday,’ and then keep doing that day in and day out,” Hayward said. “And if it happens to get to the point where the season’s still going on and I can play, then, like, that’s awesome.”
3 months ago via ESPN

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday that Gordon Hayward soon will shed his walking boot as he navigates the early stages of rehab from a fractured left ankle suffered in Boston’s season opener in Cleveland. Hayward’s wife, Robyn, posted a video of a bootless Hayward on Instagram on Wednesday, sparking chatter about Hayward’s progress. During his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub, Ainge said Hayward is “right on schedule,” though neither Hayward nor the Celtics have offered a timetable for his return to basketball activities and both have said he doesn’t expect to play again this season.

“There’s going to be days where he feels it’s not getting better or things aren’t going right. Just embrace those. That’s how I had to do it. That’s what mentors told me. As much as there’s going to be good days, the bad ones are going to come with it, and you just have to be prepared for those. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t be down on yourself. It’s part of the rehab stage. “And I just told him don’t get tired with the work. It’s tedious work, but it’s to build toward being better. So hopefully my words carried a little more weight by myself going through that. But we’re all wishing and praying for him.”

“I know I can’t help them physically on the court, but I am going to do everything in my power to support my teammates and coaches in every way imaginable. Whether it’s breaking down film or just providing leadership and guidance, I can’t wait to give back.” Hayward admitted he thought worst-case scenario moments after he landed awkwardly and his left leg buckled and broke. “When they were carting me out that’s when it hit me emotionally,” he said. “I got this wave of emotion like, ‘Am I done? Is this my career? Is this over?’”

Brad Stevens, Hayward’s longtime mentor and former/current coach, was among the people who helped him get into the airplane to be transported from Cleveland to Boston. “Getting me onto the plane wasn’t easy. I was on a stretcher, and I had to get carried up two flights of stairs,” he wrote. “They needed four people to carry me, and Coach Stevens was one of those four people. There were probably 25 other people there that all wanted to help, but he wanted to make sure he was one of the people to do it. I mean…that’s just the person he is.”

Gordon Hayward: I had run that play countless times. There’s been a lot of times when I’ve been knocked off balance in the air. There’s been times when I’ve had close calls, when I’ve come down pretty hard. And for the most part, I’ve always been fine. I just bounced right back up. This time didn’t feel any different when I was in the air. I mean, I knew—there’s a moment when you’re in the air and you’re knocked off balance, and you realize, “Oh no, I’m about to come down hard.” But a lot of times, you’re able to kind of adjust your body in the air so you come down flat, and don’t land on anything you can hurt that badly. This time, my leg got caught underneath me. Immediately, I knew something was off, but when I landed, it wasn’t a huge amount of pain. 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.

Gordon Hayward: It was like once my brain figured out what had happened, I was hit with shots of pain. The training staff came running over to me super fast, but however long it was—three seconds, five seconds—I just remember sitting there, looking at my foot the wrong way, and it felt like an eternity. Dr. Rosneck, the Cavaliers doctor, braced me as he explained that they wanted to try and pop my ankle back into place. I held on, and the moment they did it, there was just a massive shot of pain, probably the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life.

Gordon Hayward: But now, instead of competing in the game that had been talked about since the summer, I was in one of the training rooms at the Q, getting X-rays. The first person who talked to me back there was Isaiah Thomas. He was already back there in a training room. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I know he said a prayer for me, like right next to me. He was just there for me. I’ve learned in a short time what a special guy Isaiah is. When the X-rays were done, the doctors told me, “Look. You have a broken ankle. We are going to make some calls, and figure out what everybody wants you to do.” For the moment, the plan was to fly back to Boston with the team, go straight to the hospital and make more decisions tomorrow.

Gordon Hayward: At six, the doctors came in, and told us that they wanted to do a formal X-ray, a CAT scan, and an MRI. They wanted to get a 360-degree view of my foot. So we spent the rest of the morning doing tests, and then the rest of the day trying to figure out what we wanted to do with the surgery. The next day was moving in slow-motion. Danny Ainge came by and offered me some advice with the surgery. At some point, Coach Stevens came back and stayed with me for a bit. He asked if we needed anything from him, and although I don’t remember this, people say that I asked him for a basketball. I must have, because when I got home a couple days later, Tracy had brought one by. There were so many decisions that had to be made regarding the surgery. I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to help with the decisions, so I just listened to all of the the different ideas and suggestions, and allowed those I trust most to digest everything, and help me come to a final decision. All I knew was that I just wanted to get the surgery completed and get on the road to recovery. Finally, at 6:30 PM, we came to a consensus to do the surgery that night.

Orlando coach Frank Vogel told Stevens that when his former Pacers star, Paul George, began rehabbing from a broken leg, he started shooting out of a chair. “He’s doing better. But he’s obviously just beginning the rehab process,” said Stevens. “He did do a little bit of what he was supposed to do outside (Sunday), which was good. Get out in the sun. He hasn’t come over to the facility yet, he’s at home (yesterday), but we’ve sent people to him. He’ll start coming in a little bit more over the next few days to get worked on here, to get re-checked here, and everything else.”

Gordon Hayward’s horrific and saddening injury not only robbed the Celtics of a standout player and fresh face of the franchise, it has also put the organization in a roster quandary and perhaps changed season expectations. “When KG went down in ’09, we weren’t sure that he was done,” Danny Ainge said. “We were sort of thinking that he might come back, he’s not too far away, and that made that a challenging year. We weren’t sure what to do because we were trying to buy time, and in Gordon’s case, he’s most likely out for the year. So that’s a different scenario.”

Ainge said he will be patient in making roster moves and he doesn’t necessarily feel there’s immediate pressure on the organization to react to such adversity. “Right now there’s no deal we’re doing right this second,” Ainge said. “It’s next man up, opportunities for the guys that [were not] going to get these opportunities all of a sudden play with no Marcus Morris and no Gordon Hayward. That’s 65 minutes a game right there. Until we find a deal that we like, we’ll do all we can to be patient.”

“A lot of our players and coaches had planned on Gordon being a big, big part of our season, our planning, end-of-the-game situations. Yeah, you’re losing a key guy, the most versatile of all of them, play four positions and play with all sorts of different lineups, could lead our second unit of young guys and a guy that could be on the court and finish the game with Kyrie [Irving] and Al [Horford], so yeah, there’s a lot of adjusting on the fly. Brad [Stevens] has a very difficult job ahead of[ him and so do our players. But like I said, I believe there’s a lot of good that could still happen this year for us.”

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he did not mean to suggest a timeline for Gordon Hayward when he referenced how the injured All-Star plans to approach the next five months. “I was just speaking generally, more focused on how to keep him engaged and active,” Stevens clarified after practice Saturday. “But there’s no timeline. And like it’s been said, we’re not anticipating having him back this year. But I got a lot of questions about that.”
4 months ago via ESPN

Brad Stevens: “I called Frank Vogel the day I drove to the gym, when we played Milwaukee, and just asked him, ‘What are some of the things that Paul did in his year off that you would really encourage? What are some of the things that we should be looking [to]?’ And, hey, [Hayward is] going to be the best guy shooting out of a chair, with his left hand, with his right hand, perfect his form, and let’s have fun. Let’s come up with creative ways to attack this thing.”

More than a decade has passed since Livingston became infamous on YouTube for one of the most gruesome knee injuries in the history of professional sports. Now an essential reserve for the defending NBA champion Warriors, he finds himself empathizing with Hayward, who will probably miss the rest of the season with a fractured left tibia. “It’s the not-knowing that’s the worst part,” Livingston said. “He doesn’t know how long it’s really going to take to come back. He doesn’t know if he’s going to be the same player. He doesn’t know. … And that fear of the unknown, it just brings you down. It casts a cloud over your future.”

Bartelstein said that Hayward was aware of the reception he received at the game, and he has been touched by the outpouring of support in Boston, around the NBA, and around the world. “I think it’s been just unbelievable,” Bartelstein said. “I think it’s been overwhelming for him. “I think the one thing that comes out from something like this is you see how much people care about you. “I think it means the world to him, and I think he’s really been inspired by just the way people in Boston and around the world have reached out to him. It’s been great. The reaction at the arena last night meant the world to him.”

Bobby Marks: The likelihood is that the [Boston Celtics] will apply for the disabled player exception, which will be worth up to $8.4 million. The league will have to determine whether Gordon Hayward’s injury will keep him out until June 15–the target date–for it to be granted. I think it’s good to have, I just don’t see how many good options are out there. The rule is, you’re trading for or signing players on a one-year contract. If you look at the [small forwards] under contract, there’s not many great ones out there that can have an immediate impact right now.

Gordon Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said in a phone interview Thursday morning that Hayward’s surgery to repair a dislocated ankle and broken tibia “went really well,” but he cautioned that it is unlikely that the Celtics forward will play this season. “I think he’s going to do great,” Bartelstein said. “We have no question about a full recovery, and he’ll be back better than ever. But it’s going to be a while. It’s going to be a process. It’s going to take a little bit, so we’ve just got to go through the process.”
4 months ago via ESPN

Hayward, dressed in a hospital gown, appeared on the video board to thunderous cheers. “What’s up, everybody? I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers,” said Hayward. “I’m going to be all right. It’s hurting me that I can’t be there for the home opener, I want nothing more [than] to be with my teammates and walk out onto that floor tonight. I’ll be supporting you guys from here. I wish you the best of luck. Kill it tonight.”
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February 21, 2018 | 9:00 am EST Update
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February 21, 2018 | 5:07 am EST Update
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Storyline: LeBron James Free Agency