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Hornets need Gordon Hayward’s injury to heal quickly or risk a return to irrelevancy

Whether Gordon Hayward is the Charlotte Hornets’ most respected participant is debatable, however he’s the toughest to change.

That felt greater than hypothetical following Monday’s 132-110 street loss to the Utah Jazz. With 10 minutes left and the Hornets trailing by 10, small ahead Hayward hit the ground exhausting, off a foul by Utah’s Georges Niang. Replays confirmed Hayward breaking his fall along with his proper hand, then grabbing his wrist in what seemed like extreme ache.

The Hornets known as a timeout to assess Hayward’s injury. Then, he went to the coaching room and by no means returned to the sport. Charlotte mentioned Hayward aggravated a prior hand injury.

Everyone tried not to assume the worst, however this was coach James Borrego’s remark post-game: “Obviously, we are all concerned.”

They definitely ought to be. Hayward isn’t simply this staff’s main scorer (21.9 points per game), he’s the connector between every part they do. Rookie LaMelo Ball is the Hornets’ most entertaining participant and Terry Rozier has the clutch gene. But Hayward performs with a precision that bails the Hornets out of quite a few unhealthy half-court possessions.

He can be the one pure match as beginning small ahead. Miles Bridges performed there his first two NBA seasons, however that isn’t optimum. The means Bridges has thrived as this staff’s super-sub at energy ahead guides his future.

Everyone tried to be optimistic Monday night time. As Ball mentioned, “We asked (Hayward) and he said he was feeling kind of good. So we’ll just see from there, I guess.”

A major Injury historical past

The Hornets knew once they recruited Hayward as a free agent that there was an injury historical past. He suffered a dislocated ankle and broken leg on the outset of his three seasons with the Boston Celtics within the fall of 2017. When Hayward returned the subsequent season, younger Celtics Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown had already superior so quickly that Hayward grew to become the third wing choice, moderately than a star.

Part of why Hayward opted out of his Celtics contract and agreed to be a Hornet was to present he might nonetheless be the centerpiece of an NBA roster.

For probably the most half, he has succeeded. He’s on the fringe of the All-Star dialogue within the Eastern Conference. Hayward and Ball have improved the expertise base sufficient that the Hornets hover round .500 with a shot on the playoffs.

But Hayward’s first 28 video games in Charlotte have additionally demonstrated he’s going to get damage. Over three months, he’s had a damaged a finger (within the preseason), missed a recreation towards the Toronto Raptors with a hip injury, and missed one other towards the San Antonio Spurs with a sore decrease again.

He additionally had minor foot surgery between the top of final season and the outset of free company.

It’s no shock he has dings; he’s 30 years outdated and has performed greater than 20,000 NBA minutes. That’s plentiful mileage.

Reliability, availability

From his regular-season debut as a Hornet — enjoying with that damaged finger — Hayward has demonstrated reliability. He continually makes good selections with the ball, guards his place, and hits robust photographs in visitors.

He’s additionally began getting to the foul line with frequency, one thing he did frequently with the Jazz earlier than leaving for Boston.

The open query is extra of availability, not simply now however over the size of a four-year, $120 million contract.

No one within the Hornets group expects Hayward to be higher at 34 than he now’s at 30. This season and the subsequent one determine to be the prime of his time in Charlotte.

They don’t simply worth him, they desperately need him, as a result of nobody else does what he does.

Hopefully, that hand heals quick. Because this brutal six-game journey by the West might spin them proper again to their irrelevant latest previous.

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Rick Bonnell has lined the Charlotte Hornets and the NBA for the Observer because the enlargement franchise moved to the Queen City in 1988. A Syracuse grad and former president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, Bonnell additionally writes sometimes on the NFL, faculty sports activities and the enterprise of sports activities.
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