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.
Brooklyn fans looked destined for another long season, however for the first time in a long time had reason for optimism. They finally parted ways with Brook Lopez and his $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 team’s fortunes have drastically changed.
Gordon Hayward’s injury
Hayward was selected by the Utah Jazz with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft. After playing seven seasons in Salt Lake City, the 27-year-old blossomed into a star of the NBA and earned his first All-Star appearance last season in a loaded Western Conference.
In the off-season he became an unrestricted free agent and sought greener pastures with the Boston Celtics. Following the addition of Kyrie Irving a month later, the Celtics were set for another Eastern Conference Finals appearance against Cleveland.
In their season opener against Cleveland, Celtics fans got to see their new look lineup 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 off. However, on their first attempt they couldn’t connect and Hayward landed badly on his left leg fracturing his fibula 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.
Gordon Hayward Injury (WARNING: Graphic content)
What does this mean for Boston?
The Celtics were already up against it to push for a championship as their path to success appeared to have to go through perennial contenders the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Without Hayward their task seems impossible.
Going into the season, the Eastern Conference Finals was a minimum benchmark for success. Now making it will be a huge achievement. Season 2017/18 is a write-off but it’s not all doom and gloom.
Boston is a very young team built for sustained success and the silver lining is they now have a real opportunity to develop their young talent. In their two opening games of the season we’ve already seen rookie Jayson Tatum average 37 minutes a game, sophomore Jaylen Brown average 34 minutes and 23-year-old Marcus Smart average 33.5 minutes.
All three will be asked to take on a greater role in the offense with Hayward out and will be better in the long run for it. What started as a championship contention season lasted less than six minutes and has now become a development season.
Jeremy Lin’s injury
If you didn’t get swept up by ‘Linsanity’ in 2012 you either weren’t an NBA fan or you’re lying. Jeremy Lin bounced around the NBA for a couple of seasons before taking New York City and the league by storm in a magical few months that started a cultural phenomenon that we’d never seen before.
In the months of February and March 2012 he had the highest selling jersey in the NBA. He was rewarded with a sizeable contract from the Houston Rockets however he never returned to those lofty heights.
After brief stints with the Lakers and the Hornets he signed a three-year, $36 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets to be their starting point guard but could only manage 36 games in an injury-plagued season.
In their season opener against Indiana, Lin and D’Angelo Russell gave fans a glimpse into the dynamic backcourt duo they could be. This was to be short-lived as with five minutes to go in the game, the 29-year-old landed awkwardly on his right leg after a hard drive to the basket. Lin immediately clutched his knee and appeared to say, “I’m done” over and over. Scans later confirmed he had ruptured his patella tendon and was out for the season.
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