Gordon Hayward: the Pain, the Progress, the Prevail
On October 17, 2017 the city of Boston was buzzing with excitement. It was opening night in the NBA and the Celtics were set to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers who were coming off yet another trip to the NBA Finals. Oh yea, and they had a man by the name of Lebron James. While this might have felt like a time to panic to most teams around the league, Boston had reason to remain calm.
Just a few months before this game, the Celts acquired Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to round off a roster than would have been otherwise fronted by Al Horford. Jayson Tatum was also drafted that off-season, but I’ll get to him later. All said and done, Boston came out of that summer with a team fueled by a core of 3 NBA All-Stars. Fans couldn’t help but reminisce back to the Summer of 2007. That was the year the Boys in Green added Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to a mediocre team led by Paul Pierce.
In 2007 the Big 3 era had arrived in Boston. This trio of All-Stars came together in winning an NBA Championship in 2008 as well as an Eastern Conference Finals Championship in 2010. Fast forwarding to 2017, Celtics fans were eager to return to their former days of glory with a new Big 3. All of this came to a devastating halt about 6 minutes into the game against the Cavs that night in October.
2017 was a crazy year for me if I’m being totally honest. I went through one of the craziest break ups in my life, quit my job, and thought I might die due to the results of what turned out to be a faulty blood test. Despite all the emotional conflict I faced that year, it didn’t quite compare to the heartache when Kevin Harlan echoed the words “Hayward has broken his leg.” It was a tough pill to swallow to say the least, and the calm of confidence quickly shifted to the calm before the storm in Boston.
Despite the gruesome injury of a fractured tibia, the Celtics rallied into an inspiring season finishing 2nd in the Eastern Conference with a record of 55-27. In addition to losing Hayward the Celtics lost Kyrie Irving to an injury as well. While all was seemingly lost, Boston clawed it’s way to game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals in yet another heartbreaking loss to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. A dim light was still looming in Boston on the heels of one of the best performances by a duo of such a young age in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
With the 2017 season coming to an end the Celtics began 2018 with a rehabbed Gordon Hayward, the return of Kyrie Irving, and the glimpse on an impressive young core from the previous year. Although everything seemed to be back on the right track, the path to success is hardly ever a straight line.
In short, the 2018 season was disappointing one for Boston fans. Gordon Hayward’s return was ultimately all bark and no bite. Not just for him personally, but for the Celtics as a whole as neither seemed to be able to find a consistent formula for success. The team finished 4th with a record of 49-33, barely scrapping by the less than full strength Pacers in the first round. This was followed by an embarrassing second round exit at the hands of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. While a second round loss was much better than many teams could have hoped for that year, it was an end that left the fans of Boston greatly dissatisfied, and things were about to get worse.
A Woj bombed had been dropped that following summer and when the dust had cleared, Kyrie Irving had left Bean Town to take his talents to New York. He left Boston behind with rumors swirling of drastic chemistry issues amongst the team and within the organization as a whole (coming soon to a team near you, Brooklyn).
This was the preverbal cherry on top of the shit cake that was the 2018 season for the Boston Celtics. But wait….there’s more.
As any sports analyst would tell you, it’s hardly the year following a major injury that tells the tale, it’s the year after. As the Celtics looked to turn the page after losing Kyrie Irving and additionally Al Horford, Boston began the 2019 season adding All Star Kemba Walker and a fairly solid Enes Kanter to the same promising young core they still had. The current NBA season has just begun and Gordon Hayward looks to have come a long way in the first 5 games as one the most consistent players. That progress was given a giant question mark in the Celtics 6th game on November 5th against the very same team Hayward suffered his tragic injury, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Celtics won 119-113 as Gordon Hayward finished with a career high 39 points while adding 8 assists and 7 rebounds. The stat that mattered most in this impressive game was Hayward shooting a perfect 16-16 on 2 point attempts. A feat that has not been accomplished since Wilt Chamberlain shot 18-18 for the Philadelphia 76ers against the Baltimore Bullets on February 24, 1967. I'd say breathing down the neck of an NBA record is the hallmark of a pretty damn good game.
I’m not saying Gordon Hayward is back to his All-Star ways or that the Celtics are suddenly a shoe in for an NBA Championship. Both have a long way to go in achieving either of these goals. All I wish to convey is that this game signifies a truly awe-inspiring moment in the a league where “Amazing Happens.” This is a story that all sports fans everywhere should enjoy.
written by: Evan Woicik @ EVRD