Coming into the 2017/18 NBA season Boston fans had every reason to be giddy about their chances to challenge the best teams in the league for championship glory. Key off-season acquisitions Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward looked set to lead a youthful core deep into the post-season.
Elsewhere, Brooklyn fans, for the first time in a long time, had reason for optimism. They finally parted ways with Brook Lopez and his onerous $22 million contract, and in return got a young talented point guard in D’Angelo Russell to pair in the backcourt with their cult hero, guard Jeremy Lin.
Fast forward two days into the season and both teams' fortunes have drastically changed.
Gordon Hayward’s injury
Hayward was selected by the Utah Jazz with pick nine in the 2010 NBA draft. After playing seven seasons for the Jazz, he blossomed into a star of the NBA and earned his first All-Star appearance in 2017 in a loaded Western Conference. In the offseason, he became an unrestricted free agent and sought greener pastures with the Boston Celtics. Following the addition of Irving a month later, Boston were set for another Eastern Conference finals appearance against Cleveland.
In their season opener against Cleveland, however, Celtics fans got to see their new-look line up together for less than six minutes. It was supposed to be a sight to get used to; Kyrie Irving throwing up alley-oop passes for Hayward to finish. However, on their first attempt they couldn’t connect and Hayward landed badly on his left leg, fracturing his tibia and dislocating his ankle. The stadium fell silent and players from both sides looked visibly distraught as the aftermath showed his foot at a near right angle to the rest of his leg. The worst fears were confirmed the next day as Hayward was ruled out for the entire season.