The new NBA season was less than six minutes old when disaster struck for the Boston Celtics on Tuesday in the form of a gruesome ankle injury to forward Gordon Hayward.
The former Utah star, who inked a four-year, $128 million deal with the Celtics in the off-season, landed hard 5:15 into the game after a leaping cut to the basket, trying to catch an alley-oop pass from Kyrie Irving.
Players from both teams looked shocked as Hayward, his ankle turned at a sickening angle, was attended by medical staff and rushed off on a stretcher.
Irving, the former Cavaliers star who landed in Boston after a shock off-season trade request, said it was one of the worst injuries he’d ever seen.
“It’s not a great sight to see,” Irving said.
Irving’s return to Cleveland was supposed to be the story of the night.
He was booed lustily by Cavaliers fans — including when he lofted a shot over superstar LeBron James for the season’s first basket.
James said he had plenty of fond memories of playing alongside Irving, reaching three straight NBA Finals and winning a title with him in 2016.
“But once the ball went up, it was kind of back to our regularly scheduled program,” James said.
The Cavs led 54-38 at half-time and stretched the lead to 61-43 early in the third quarter.
The Celtics fought back and were up 98-95 before Kevin Love made two free throws, James followed with a layup and then assisted on Love’s three-pointer that gave Cleveland a 102-98 lead. Irving missed a driving shot and a three-pointer at the buzzer and the Cavs prevailed.
James scored 29 points with 16 rebounds and nine assists — but said he still needs to work on his fitness after missing most of the pre-season with a sprained left ankle.
He also said it would take some time before he, Love and new additions Derrick Rose and Dwayne Wade, are operating together at full capacity.
“We’ve got some things we need to figure out,” James said. “It’s a work in progress, for sure.”
The online community rushed to wish Hayward a speedy recovery. Here’s a sample of the reaction…
🙏🏽🙏🏽 For @gordonhayward. Come back stronger!
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) October 18, 2017
Prayers up @gordonhayward. Wishing you a healthy recovery.
— James Harden (@JHarden13) October 18, 2017
My prayers to @gordonhayward. Hope to see you back on the court soon🙏🏼
— Zaza Pachulia (@zaza27) October 18, 2017
God bless you bro @gordonhayward ! 🙏🏾 help him thru this god!
— Paul George (@Yg_Trece) October 18, 2017
Hate to see @gordonhayward go down like that. I know he will be back stronger and wish him the best recovery possible.
— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) October 18, 2017
— Rudy Gay (@RudyGay) October 18, 2017
Prayers up for Gordon Hayward.
— Elena Delle Donne (@De11eDonne) October 18, 2017
Praying for my guy @gordonhayward!!! NEVER want to see any of the guys go through anything like that.
— DeAndre Jordan (@DeAndre) October 18, 2017
— Dwight Howard (@DwightHoward) October 18, 2017
No way… that ain’t fair…
— Ricky Rubio (@rickyrubio9) October 18, 2017
Wow…thats horrific…feel awful for Hayward
— Jeremy Lin (@JLin7) October 18, 2017
😔 that ain’t fair man
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) October 18, 2017
Mannnn just saw Hayward 😟😟 that’s so tough 😞
— Thanasi Kokkinakis (@TKokkinakis) October 18, 2017
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward suffered a horrific ankle injury just six minutes into his debut with the team as they lost 102-99 to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Hayward had been attempting to finish off an alley-oop pass from Kyrie Irving when he collided with LeBron James and Jae Crowder on the way up before landing awkwardly.
Players looked visibly shaken as Hayward lay on the court in agony with a clearly twisted left ankle.
LeBron gives Gordon Hayward some words of encouragement following his injury. pic.twitter.com/VW4HDDoP2k
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 18, 2017
The Celtics later confirmed that the 27-year-old had suffered a fractured ankle – a heavy blow for the team, who had hoped their star recruit would help to close the gap on the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavaliers led 54-38 at half-time and stretched the lead to 61-43 just 2:03 into the third quarter on a Kevin Love free throw.
But the Celtics battled back to take a 71-69 lead before the Cavs regained a slim 72-71 edge going into the fourth quarter.
Boston were up 98-95 before Love sank two free throws, James followed with a layup and then assisted on a 3-pointer by Love that gave the Cavaliers a 102-98 lead.
Irving made a free throw to pull Boston within the final margin, but Irving drove to the hoop against Rose and missed a shot that James rebounded.
A final Cleveland miss gave Boston one last chance to equalize. Irving missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, then got a hug from James.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) October 18, 2017
Boston Celtics forward Abdel Nader is adamant he can help Egypt embrace the game of basketball by being “one of the first Egyptian basketball players in the NBA”.
The 24-year-old looks to be an exciting prospect for the Celtics this season and is ready to take the NBA by storm after impressing in the NBA G League last year, winning the NBA G League Rookie of the Year award.
Speaking about whether Egypt had embraced the game of basketball yet, Nader said: “I think it’s getting there. I know the national team has gotten better over the last couple of years.
“It still has a long way to go. I think I can really help it with that, by being one of the first Egyptian basketball players to be in the NBA. Hopefully I can influence more kids to pick up the game of basketball.”
Last season’s NBA G League All-Star has shared his intentions to open a basketball camp in Egypt one day, saying: “I was thinking about going back this summer to open up some camps, doing some basketball camps there [in Egypt] and seeing how that goes. It would be great to stay tied up with the community there and seeing how that works out. I’ll gladly do whatever I can to help for any reason.”
Full Q&A with Nader:
A: Yeah, definitely. The way social media is now these days, it’s really easy to communicate to people of different regions and different parts of the country, world. A lot of people reach out through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. It is a special kind of feeling to know that I have support around the world like that.
I think it’s getting there. I know the national team has gotten a little better the last couple of years. It still needs a long way to go. I think I can really help it with that, by like being one of the first Egyptian basketball players to be in the NBA. Hopefully I can influence more kids to pick up the game of basketball.
I was thinking about going back this summer to open up some camps, doing some basketball camps there [in Egypt] and seeing how that goes. It would be great to stay tied up with the community there and seeing how that works out. I’ll gladly do whatever I can to help for any reasons. I haven’t really looked into that yet, though.
If I could influence a kid to better his life with basketball and get him to the United States, to make it a better life for himself, I’m all for that.
A: Even though I wasn’t in his era, I was a big Michael Jordan guy. I watched film on Michael Jordan. Even though they weren’t live games, I watched a lot of film on Michael Jordan – ESPN Classic games. Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, guys like that that fit like my type of body, the way I would kind of play in the NBA. Things like that.
For the most part, the whole organization does a great job, from the staff to the players. Al Horford is really influential to all the young players. Kyrie is on us all the time about getting better, being professional, things like that. Jaylen, even though he’s only been here a year, has been a great mentor for me. He’s been through it. He knows what to expect, things like that. It’s a blessed situation. I’m glad to be here.
Abdel Nader was speaking as tickets for the NBA London Game 2018 between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers go on sale this week, with fans able to register their details at NBA.com/London to gain early access to a limited number of tickets via a presale to be held on Wednesday, October 18.
Tickets for the NBA London Game 2018 will go on general sale Friday, October 20 at 9am BST at theo2.co.uk/nba2018.