Gordon Hayward didn't play in the Charlotte Hornets' preseason opener against the Boston Celtics, missing the game with a knee injury. After only playing in 49 of the 82 games in the 2021-22 season, this is not a great sign. The Hornets are clearly a better team when he is able to play. For two straight seasons the Hornets were above .500 and in the playoff hunt before Hayward went out with an injury. This is mostly precautionary according to head coach Steve Clifford after Hayward banged his knee in practice, but it just makes Hornets fans nervous.
“He wants to play. He’s actually a little upset about it, but it doesn’t make any sense to me and it doesn’t make any sense to (trainer) Joe (Sharpe),” Clifford say, via Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer.
At training camp press conferences, Gordon Hayward spoke with the media about taking necessary rest whenever the season kicks off. It appears they have already started that here in the preseason. Hayward's body has been bruised and battered since he touched down in Charlotte. Maybe the load management route is going to be what is best for Hayward. Even if he does play any preseason games in this stretch, it would be smart to limit his minutes. Most starters for the Hornets will likely play around 20-25 minutes in the preseason, according to Steve Clifford.
After the preseason is over and they get into the full swing of things, maybe they should keep his minutes around that limit in the regular season. If Hayward's health is the key to the team's success, it is a necessary move for the organization. His play is infectious among his teammates, and the ball movement looks beautiful with him on the floor. He also is an important scorer with Miles Bridges possibly out all season because of domestic violence.
In order for the load management to be effective, everyone needs to step up, including their best player in LaMelo Ball. If all the main pieces are healthy and ready to rock, maybe this team could find a way to get into the postseason in 2023.