Celtics' Gordon Hayward Leaves NBA Bubble After Ankle Injury; Plans to Return

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2020

Boston Celtics' Gordon Hayward shoots the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Ehrmann, Pool)
Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens announced Sunday that forward Gordon Hayward has left the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, after suffering a Grade 3 ankle sprain in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Stevens added that Hayward plans to return to the bubble when he is close to being able to return to action.

Hayward missed the second and third games of the first-round series against Philly, but Boston still enters Sunday's Game 4 with a 3-0 series lead.

The 30-year-old has a history of ankle and leg injuries, most notably playing just one game in the 2017-18 season after suffering a fractured tibia and dislocated ankle.

When healthy, Hayward gives the Celtics an important secondary scorer who can take over games for extended periods of time. He averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game in 2019-20 while shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three-point range.

It was his best statistical season for the Celtics since joining them after the 2016-17 season.

Prior to signing with the Celtics, Hayward spent the first seven years of his career with the Utah Jazz, with whom he was a one-time All-Star.

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While this setback will put more responsibility on the shoulders of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, also look for the combination of Semi Ojeleye, Grant Williams, Romeo Langford and Marcus Smart to see more time until Hayward is ready to return.

Boston will look to complete the sweep against Philadelphia on Sunday without Hayward in the lineup, which would likely set the stage for a second-round matchup against the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors.