BOSTON (CBS) — After a roller coaster of a season opener, the Celtics face the grim reality that they’ll be without Gordon Hayward for the foreseeable future.
What’s that mean for the next 81 games — and beyond? Celtics play-by-play man Mike Gorman joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Wednesday morning to discuss the road ahead for the Celtics. While he’s hearing that it’s possible that Hayward could possibly return sometime late in the regular season, he doesn’t think a top two finish in the East is very realistic outcome for the Celtics anymore.
“[I think they’re] three or four in the East. Even before the accident, no one was paying attention to Washington, who has an ax to grind with Boston,” Gorman said of the Wizards, who the Celtics ousted in a heated seven-game series last postseason. “They’re a very good team that has a grudge against the Celtics, so with the absence of Hayward that opens the door for them to slide in with Cleveland and battle to be the best in the Eastern Conference.”
Hayward’s absence will place more pressure on Kyrie Irving to lead the way on his new team, and even more responsibility is going to land on Celtics youngsters Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
“They’re going to get a lot of minutes, because there’s no place else Brad can go. Lost in the game last night was the performance of Jaylen Brown, who quietly during the preseason has shown he has the potential to be a big time player,” Gorman said of the 20-year-old entering his second NBA season. “He defended last night and showed his ability to score. He wasn’t afraid to take a big shot at the end of the game. I really like what I see out of Jaylen Brown.”
Gorman said the Celtics are extremely impressed with Tatum’s basketball IQ, especially for a 19-year-old. The rookie bounced back well on Tuesday night after struggling for much of the first half, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds in his NBA debut.
“It looks like a 19- and 20-year-old are going to have to lead the Celtics, along with Kyrie,” said Gorman.
As for the injury itself, there has been some talk of Jae Crowder intentionally getting under Hayward to take him out as the C’s forward went up for the alley-oop before the injury. Crowder wasn’t very pleased when some C’s fans cheered for Hayward last season when he was still on the Jazz, and had Crowder remained in Boston, it was highly unlikely he’d be happy with a guy coming in and taking his spot in the Celtics.
But after getting to know Crowder during his three seasons in Boston, Gorman said he doesn’t think there was any malicious intent by Crowder on Tuesday night.
“It was a hard foul, no question. It was an aggressive foul. Does it get questioned because of the history between the two of them? No question. Was it dirty, was Crowder intentionally looking to take his legs from under him? I don’t think so,” he said. “Saying that he didn’t pay attention to where the ball was, that often happens with guys trying to box out.
“I don’t think it was dirty,” said Gorman. “That’s the reason people like Jae, because he played that aggressive game when he was a Celtic. To make him a bad guy, that’s not fair to him.”
Gorman also touched on the possibility of Hayward’s return in late March, the rest of the Boston depth, and Tommy Heinsohn’s interesting comments on Aron Baynes during the preseason. Listen to the full interview in the podcast above!