Gordon Hayward Sidelined Indefinitely With Ankle Injury

The Hornets have ruled forward Gordon Hayward unavailable indefinitely due to a left ankle injury, per the team’s PR department (Twitter link). Charlotte notes that an MRI on the ankle showed sprained ligaments, and that the team will announce any changes in his condition “as appropriate.”

This is a major blow for Hayward, who had just returned to action a few days ago after being in the NBA COVID-19 health and safety protocols for two weeks.

Currently the No. 9 seed in the East with a 28-27 record, Charlotte has a serious chance to earn a postseason berth for the first time since the 2015/16 NBA season. As a valuable two-way forward who can shoot and defend, the former All-Star Hayward has been a key part of the club’s rotation. Across 48 games as the Hornets’ starting small forward, the 31-year-old was averaging 16.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.6 APG and 1.0 SPG. He boasted a strong shooting line of .460/.390/.846.

The team is led by top scorers LaMelo Ball, a newly-minted injury replacement All-Star, and forward Miles Bridges. The absence of Hayward could lead to an expanded role for P.J. Washington, who had previously been elevated to a starting position during the 6’7″ veteran’s coronavirus-related absence.

Hayward’s injured ankle is the same one he broke in 2017 during his Celtics debut. A long-term absence for the oft-injured vet could necessitate a trade to bolster the team’s playoff chances ahead of the Thursday deadline.

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