In the 2017-18 NBA season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gordon Hayward suffered a devastating injury in his Boston Celtics debut. Since then, Hayward has made great progress to the point where some felt he could even rejoin Kyrie Irving and Al Horford in the team's starting lineup this season.
Before the Celtics took on the New York Knicks to begin the second half of the 2017-18 NBA season, head coach Brad Stevens was asked about Hayward's availability according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:
Brad Stevens reiterates to media in New York: @GordonHayward will not return this season.
— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) February 24, 2018
While the Celtics need Hayward to compete for championships, they have been very patient with his recovery and were prepared for either scenario. Even without the one-time All-Star, Boston currently owns a 41-19 record, which is the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. In his place, both Jaylen Brown (13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31.4 minutes) and Jayson Tatum (13.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 30.8 minutes) have embraced bigger roles in their young careers.
After 16 consecutive wins to start the season, the Celtics have recently dealt with some growing pains, losing four of their final six games heading into the All-Star break. With the defense needing to improve, Marcus Smart's return from his hand injury should help turn things around.
Without their career 15.6-point scorer through 60 games and for the rest of the season, it will be interesting to see if the Celtics have enough to dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. While the Cavaliers have had their fair share of struggles, their moves at the trade deadline have seemingly reenergized them.