Gordon Hayward, the Boston Celtics prized free agent, saw his season end only five minutes after it started Tuesday night when he suffered a gnarly dislocated ankle and broken leg.
With six minutes and 45 seconds left in the first quarter of the NBA's season opening game between the Celtics and Cavs, Hayward jumped to block an alley-oop attempt to Lebron James.
He came down awkwardly and remained down as play continued for a few seconds. When players on the Cavs bench saw the injury, their reactions told the whole story.
Hayward was quickly taken to the locker room as Cavs fans rose for a standing ovation. Team doctors evaluated him and players from both teams visited him in a show of support. Coach Brad Stevens said after the game that the 27-year-old forward had dislocated his ankle broken his tibia.
"You hurt for him. He's put in a lot of great work. And I thought he had his most comfortable week as far as feeling like he was going to play really well," Stevens said. "But now we'll hopefully get a full recovery, right? And so it's a tough deal, but I guess that's part of it, the risk of injury. I really feel for him."
The NBA community rallied around Hayward on social media, with players, including some who have suffered similarly gruesome injuries, tweeting their well wishes.
The Celtics and Cavs finished the game under a cloud and without its new star, Boston fell to the LeBron and company 102-99.
The other opening night game tipped off in Oakland, where the Warriors hung a championship banner before taking on the new look Rockets. Golden State began with an offensive barrage, led by Klay Thompson, but in the end James Harden and Chris Paul proved too much for the defending NBA champs, who lost 122-121 despite last-second shots by both Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.
It was an unfamiliar feeling for Warriors fans in Oracle Arena, where the Dubs almost never lose. After the game coach Steve Kerr chalked up the loss to a lack of conditioning. "I just thought we looked tired," Kerr said. "I don’t think we are in good enough shape yet to play a 48-minute game against a great team."
And, as Curry noted, this loss wasn't as bad as the loss the Warriors took in their first game last year, when the Spurs downed them 129-100.
We lost by 'only one this year," he said. "So that’s improvement."