The Celtics expect to be without Gordon Hayward for approximately the next four weeks, announcing today (via Twitter) that the forward suffered a Grade III sprain of his right ankle during the fourth quarter of Monday’s Game 1 win over Philadelphia.
Hayward was battling with 76ers center Joel Embiid for position late in the fourth quarter on Monday when he appeared to twisted his right foot and fell to the floor. He was able to limp off the court and back to the locker room, but left the arena on crutches, per Malika Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link). The veteran later underwent an MRI to determine the extent of the injury.
It’s a tough blow for Hayward – who has been plagued by injuries since arriving in Boston in 2017 – and for the Celtics, whose already lean pretty heavily on their top few rotation players.
As Tim Bontemps of ESPN observes, Marcus Smart will likely replace Hayward in the starting lineup, joining Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and Daniel Theis. That would leave players like Robert Williams, Enes Kanter, Brad Wanamaker, Romeo Langford, and Grant Williams as Boston’s top bench options.
A four-week recovery timetable for Hayward would rule him out for the rest of the Celtics’ first-round series vs. Philadelphia. Assuming Boston advances to the second round, the 30-year-old may not be available against the team’s next opponent (presumably Toronto) either, since the conference semifinals are scheduled to take place during the first two weeks of September.
Further complicating Hayward’s future availability are his plans to leave the NBA campus at some point in September for the birth of his fourth child. It’s not clear whether that will happen early or late in the month.