SAN ANTONIO — Talk across the league was about Gordon Hayward returning to his Utah form, and now this.
The Celtics forward broke his left hand while colliding with a pick-setting LaMarcus Aldridge late in the second quarter of Saturday’s 135-115 win over the Spurs, and will miss an indefinite period of time, with surgery a possibility.
Marcus Smart shook his head.
“Man it was tough, tough to hear that. Gordon’s been playing some of the best basketball of his career, and we love seeing Gordon the way he’s been playing,” said the Celtics guard. “We love seeing that Gordon. We just all feel so bad for him because he worked so hard to come back from one injury, with all the things he’s been doing, and now this happens. Our hearts go out to him, and now we have to play for him until he gets back and hold the fort down.”
Hayward, off to a hot start in his second season back following a leg fracture on opening night of the 2017-18 season, left the floor early in the second shaking the hand, and immediately headed back to the trainer’s room. There, following an X-ray, it was determined that Hayward had broken his hand.
“That’s tough, I don’t know what the timetable is, but I know that’s tough to deal with an injury,” said Jaylen Brown. “Especially Gordon’s playing really well right now, and we’re leaning on him to help us with this season and the run we’re trying to make. I know that’s really tough. Any time you deal with an injury like that, that’s disheartening. But we wish him a speedy recovery. I think he’ll be fine, I think he’ll be watching the game, and he’ll probably be able to come back and see the game a little different. So we’ll wait for his return, but we’ll try to hold it down for him while he’s gone.”
Said Kemba Walker: “It’s tough, with his old injury and now this. It’s always hard to see one of your brothers go down. We definitely wish him a speedy recovery, and definitely going to miss him, but we just need guys to step up. Now it’s an opportunity for other guys until he comes back, and then we have to hold the fort down.
“I was pissed, I didn’t say anything, I was really in shock for the most part. In those kind of situations, it’s kind of hard to say anything, you just don’t even know what to say sometimes. But yeah, it’s tough man. We’re going to miss him for the time that he’s out.”
Robert Williams turned in the most complete game of his career with 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting – three of them alley-oop dunks – seven rebounds and, above all, a career-high six blocks.
“Best year by far and I think Rob would tell you that. He’s protecting the rim, like no other for us,” said Smart. “He gives us the ability to get out and pressure other guards, and in a sense he allows us to make a few mistakes because he’s back there to protect us. We’re excited for Rob, man. Rob worked hard this summer and we know what to expect from him.”
He may be $15,000 poorer due to his comments following Thursday night’s game in Charlotte for some fiery comments about the officiating, and he may have been angry with Stevens for not pleading his case more to the officiating crew, but Smart has moved on as far as his coach is concerned.
“If I have something to say to Marcus, I’ll say it to Marcus,” said coach Brad Stevens. “That’s the most important thing. He’s an emotional guy and we love that part about him. He’s a passionate guy and we love that part about him. Inevitably we have a lot of days together, and sit down real briefly and move forward. The other day he was frustrated, getting those five fouls, especially early in that game and having to sit down.”
The kumbaya nature of Celtics training camp, with the raincloud relocating over Brooklyn, likely got its start in the World Cup with USA basketball, even if the Americans finished well below expectations.
But the Celtics quartet of Smart, Jayson Tatum, Brown and Walker left a strong impression with their coach – San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
“It was a wonderful summer. I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed being with a group more,” said Popovich. “The four Celtics obviously and everybody else, it was like a daily clinic for about 48, 49 days, I can’t remember. But those guys were great, they were motivated, they worked hard every day trying to pick up in very short period of time what we needed to do to compete. They were great teammates with everybody else. I couldn’t have asked for more as far as both on the court and enjoying their company off the court. It was a really good group.”
Kanter still out
Enes Kanter missed his seventh straight game to a knee bruise, but Stevens said there are no plans to send the center for additional tests. Kanter last played on opening night in Philadelphia.
“No. Just a same old thing. Hopefully he’ll get better soon,” said Stevens, who added that Kanter continues to improve in workouts, though not enough to get into a game.
“We had him scrimmage with some of the coaches and some of the guys who didn’t play as much yesterday, and he came out of that feeling a little better but not ready to play,” said Stevens. “There was a chance he would be available in any which game. We don’t have a trainer back. All of our medical staff is here.”
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