Gordon Hayward was supposed to be an integral part of the Boston Celtics’ season. But that all changed five minutes into the team’s season-opening loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers when Hayward went down with a horrific ankle/leg injury.
While losing a player of Hayward’s caliber undoubtedly changed the complexion of the C’s season, Kyrie Irving explained Wednesday how the loss of the All-Star forward helped galvanize a young Celtics team.
Many pundits and analysts assume that the loss of Hayward would cause the C’s to slide into the middle of the Eastern Conference, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
After losing the first two games of the season, Boston responded by reeling off 16 wins in a row and sat atop the Eastern Conference for much of the season.
Hayward’s absence, which likely will last the entire season, put more pressure on young stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to perform immediately, and the youngsters have risen to the occasion more times than naught.
Brown’s and Tatum’s rise in the pecking order also caused a number of Boston’s role players to step up. Marcus Smart has been a key cog in the C’s league-leading defense, while Terry Rozier has had a career year coming off the Boston bench.
Losing Hayward initially was seen as a blow to the C’s NBA Finals chances, but it’s quite clear that it ended up having a positive effect on a number of players, making the Celtics that much more dangerous once Hayward returns to the hardwood.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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