CLEVELAND — A new Celtics era came to a screeching halt before it really even had the chance to begin on Tuesday night. Gordon Hayward went down with a gruesome fractured left ankle injury at the 6:45 mark of the first quarter and was wheeled off the floor on a stretcher as the Quicken Loans Arena crowd await.
The painful glimpse of witnessing Hayward in agony on the court was probably the last time we’ll see the All-Star forward on the court for awhile. His fractured left ankle isn’t necessarily a season-ender according to the Boston Sports Journal medical expert Dr. Jessica Flynn, but he’s going to miss a significant portion of the season for the Celtics even during a best-case scenario for his recovery.
The Celtics looked shellshocked in the direct aftermath of Hayward’s injury, but they won’t have too much time to feel sorry for themselves in the upcoming weeks. The 0-1 squad returns to action Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks in a home opener, and actually play one of the most challenging parts of their schedule over the next few weeks.
We’ll find out more about Hayward’s timetable in the coming days, but Brad Stevens faces a number of tough choices in the upcoming days, weeks and months while trying to steady a Celtics team that lost one of its best players on both ends of the floor in Cleveland. Let’s examine a few tough questions that the team will need to consider in wake of the injury:
Who starts in place of Gordon Hayward?
Let’s start with the obvious question here. The Celtics are already down a body at the wing with Marcus Morris sidelined so the only real options here are to upsize or downsize in this spot. One choice would be to go with a bigger traditional starting lineup with Jayson Tatum at small forward, Al Horford at power forward and Aron Baynes in the middle. The more likely option, however, is downsizing with Marcus Smart. The fourth-year guard would start in the backcourt with Kyrie Irving, pushing Jaylen Brown to the 3. It’s the group the Celtics started the second half with against the Cavs and the one that is best situated to play the small-ball lineups the Celtics will see on a regular basis. Once Morris returns, Smart is likely headed back to the bench.
With Hayward out, will the Celtics bring Marcus Morris back sooner?