Gordon Hayward will be sidelined for Tuesday night’s Eastern Conference play-in tournament game between the Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Hornets forward suffered a right foot sprain April 2 against the Pacers and since has been out of the lineup, missing 24 games in which Charlotte posted an 8-16 record to close the regular season.
To say Stephen A. Smith is frustrated with Hayward’s absence would be an understatement.
Smith and ESPN “First Take” co-host Max Kellerman on Tuesday traded opinions about whether Celtics head coach Brad Stevens deserves a pass if Boston fails to make any playoff noise without Jaylen Brown. Before diving into the topic, however, Smith embarked on a side rant about Hayward, who’s currently in the midst of his first season with Charlotte after an injury plagued three seasons in Boston.
“What the hell is going on, Gordon Hayward? What the hell is going on? He’s been out for a while. Injured, really? Really,” Smith shouted. “Listen, I’m being told that you’ve got a lot of people in Charlotte who believe he can go. What’s up? You’ve got the money. You’ve got the bag. It ain’t like you’re approaching free agency, bro.
” … This team has collapsed over the last 10 games without Gordon Hayward. He’s important to them. Missing these damn games. What’s up? I mean, damn, what’s up? LaMelo’s back, with the broken wrist and all. How the hell’s a sprained foot keep you out this long? I’m just saying. It’s something that needed to be said, dammit.”
The Hornets lost their final five regular season games, dropping their record to 33-39. As the No. 10 seed in the East, they’ll need to win back-to-back road games in the play-in tournament to punch their ticket to the first round of the NBA playoffs. (The winner of Tuesday’s Hornets-Pacers game will face the loser of the Celtics’ play-in game against the Washington Wizards.)
Hayward’s absence definitely has hurt Charlotte. And this obviously isn’t the first time Hayward has missed a significant chunk of time in his NBA career. But is Smith being too harsh?
Maybe, although it’s difficult not to roll your eyes now whenever Hayward’s out of the lineup, regardless of which uniform he’s wearing.