BOSTON (CBS) — Gordon Hayward has no shortage of fellow athletes to turn to as he recovers from the devastating ankle injury he suffered just five minutes into his Boston Celtics career.
But no one is better suited to discuss the road to recover than Oklahoma City Thunder guard Paul George, who suffered an equally horrific broken leg during a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage back in 2014.
Hayward was on the bench when George went down three years ago, getting a first-hand look at a similar injury to the one he suffered on opening night. When Hayward went down, George was one of the first people to text him, Hayward told the Boston media in a press conference on Thursday.
In the two grueling weeks since, Hayward has been in touch with George about the road ahead. That communication will continue now that Hayward is beginning the early stages of his rehab.
“Paul and I have had a good relationship after being drafted in the same class. I was in the gym when he [hurt] his leg and he knows firsthand what it’s going to be like to get back to being 100 percent,” Hayward said Thursday. “We’ve talked back and forth and he’s someone I can lean on. The mental side, he said, is the toughest part. You can’t get out there and play and it doesn’t go as fast as you want it to go. That’s something that is going to be a challenge.
“I think it’s extremely helpful, especially when you go through something, to talk to someone who has been through the same thing and someone who has come out of it and been successful. Paul is still having a tremendous career and came back better than ever,” added Hayward. “To have someone who is willing to talk to you about it and take his time to help me out, it’s big for me.”
George ended up missing all but six games in the 2014-15 season after his injury, but has bounced back to be his usual self — if not better. He’s averaged career highs in points each of the last two seasons since his return, shooting a career-best 46 percent last year with the Pacers, and is off to a strong start in his first season in Oklahoma City.
Fittingly, George will try to keep that going Friday night when his Thunder host the Celtics in a much-anticipated matchup between two teams that went through major overhauls in the offseason. But while he’ll be trying to beat Boston on the court Friday night, he’ll be helping them out in a big way off of it as he helps guide Hayward through his road to recovery.