After a summer upheaval that included adding a pair of All-Stars, the Celtics appeared headed for at least another trip to the Eastern Conference finals. Their fortunes may have changed Tuesday when Gordon Hayward took a hard fall less than six minutes into the season opener that left him with a dislocated and fractured left tibia.
It was a shocking way to start the year for Celtics fans and for Hayward, who left Utah for Boston and a four-year, maximum-salary contract. He was expected to be one of the top forwards in the East and part of the foundation for the team’s future, along with newly acquired point guard Kyrie Irving.
The Celtics still have plenty of talent, including the No. 3 picks in the last two drafts, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. They have both moved into the starting lineup and added youthful energy to the team. Still, it’s hard to replace someone who can score [21.9 points per game last season] and shoot [nearly 40% from 3-point range] like Hayward.
The injury plunges the Celtics into a pack of teams that will fight to be the chief challenger to Cleveland in the East. The Wizards took Boston to seven games last season in the conference semifinals, the Raptors are back with a wealth of talent and the young Bucks could be ready for a major step forward.
That brings us to tonight’s question: With the loss of Hayward, are the Celtics still among the two best teams in the East? Please share your thoughts in the space below. We look forward to your responses.