CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Within the first quarter of what was supposed to be a contentious affair between a team and one of their former stars, the idea of ‘me versus you’ went out the window. At least for a bit.
When newly signed Boston Celtics guard Gordon Hayward slammed to the floor six minutes into the NBA season, breaking his tibia and dislocating his ankle in the process, players’ minds were not on the outcome of the game.
Cavaliers players cascaded off of the team’s bench, coaches throwing their heads back into their hands, and referees quickly signaling for medical help. Everybody in the arena was shaken.
After Hayward had been taken out of the arena on a stretcher, it took a while for things to return to their normal competitive nature.
“That’s what we talked about. We said ‘find a way to move on,’” Cavaliers forward Jae Crowder said postgame. “It’s tough just to see another basketball player go down with that freak of an injury. It’s tough to swallow and keep moving on, so it took a minute to process. It was tough to keep playing through that.”
One minute, three shots and a turnover passed before the next made basket in the game, as both teams struggled to get back into a rhythm following the grisly injury.
The tension returned as former Cavalier guard Kyrie Irving continued to be booed by those who once rooted for him until the moment the former NBA Champion missed the game-tying attempt as time expired.
The dust settled, and priorities set back in for all involved. The first question Cavaliers Head Coach Tyronn Lue fielded was about the injury, and rightfully so.
“Even though he was on the opposing team, we’re still a fraternity, we’re still brothers, and you never want to see somebody go down injured like that,” he said.
LeBron James compared Hayward’s break to notable basketball injuries like Shaun Livingston’s dislocated knee in 2007, Paul George’s broken leg at Team USA camp in 2014 and Louisville guard Kevin Ware’s tibia showing through in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
“Those were the injuries that you never see coming, you never want to happen, no matter who it is, no matter what the stature, no matter how much competitive nature that you have, it’s just very unfortunate,” James said.
All involved offered their thoughts and prayers to Hayward, who was taking over a starring role for one of the best teams in the Eastern Conferences. Cavs forward Kevin Love bemoaned the loss of ‘a great player and a great dude.’
Guard Iman Shumpert took the incident as a reminder as to what is at stake each time out.
“All the guys in this league go out there and sacrifice their body every night,” he said. “The fans, hate that they had to see it, but they had to see the real risk that guys take to put it all out on the line and win.
“He’s a warrior, he’s going to fight through his rehab and get back, and we wish him health.”