Having suffered a similar injury and now thriving, Paul George says yes, but the numbers so far are telling a different story.
The date is October 17, 2017. It’s opening night, and the new-look Celtics, led by all star offseason acquisitions Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are playing the Cavs. It’s a night many NBA fans won’t soon forget. It’s certainly a night Gordon Hayward will be haunted by for years to come.
Less than halfway through the first quarter, Gordon Hayward suffered a horrific injury. He dislocated his ankle, and fractured his tibia at the same time. This was coming off of Gordon’s best season as a pro. With the Jazz in 2016-2017, Hayward put up stats of 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1 steal per game on 47%/40%/84% shooting. He was truly starting to show flashes of brilliance, and was an excellent all-around player.
That opening game was the only game Hayward played in the 2017-2018 season. He didn’t return until this season, in which he primarily has come off the bench. This season, he is averaging 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1 steal per game on 44%/34%/85% shooting. Aside from his scoring, his numbers don’t look terribly different. It is the difference between a star and role player though.
A key thing to keep in mind is that he is only shooting the ball 9 times a game this year, down from 16 in the 2016-2017 season. It’s not a terrible stretch to assume he’d score more if he shot more, but that’s also a result of Gordon losing confidence. Having your body fail you as horribly as it did on October 17th, 2017, it is no shock Gordon doesn’t fully trust his body.
George Knows Best
If anyone knows what Gordon is going through, it’s Paul George. Many of us remember in August of 2014, when Team USA was preparing for the Olympics. Nobody can think of that year without remembering the Paul George injury. During a scrimmage, Paul George suffered a compound fracture in his right leg. Absolutely nobody thought PG13 would return to his all star status.
Prior to his injury, George was putting up 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.9 steals a game on 42%/36%/86% shooting, and was leading the Pacers to give Lebron a serious run for his money. To his credit, the 2015-2016 season after his injury, George in fact put up 23.1 points, 7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.9 steals a game on 42%/37%/86% shooting, so it was almost as if he hadn’t missed a step.
The difference here though, is that PG13 was 24 when he suffered his injury, and should’ve been on track for even better stats than what he had before his injury. However, the fact that he managed to maintain production in spite of his injury was incredible. Now in 2018-2019, George is having his best season yet and is definitely in the MVP race. For reference, George is now putting up 28.7 points, 8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 2.3 steals a game on 45%/40%/84% shooting. Absolutely incredible when you consider this man couldn’t even walk four and a half years ago.
PG13 didn’t seem to lose a step, although Hayward seems to be struggling so far. George admitted he thought he’d be better soon, but doctors told him it would be 2-3 years until he really felt like himself again. George played great in the year following his injury, but his doctor’s were clearly right, because George himself has said he just now feels like himself again. And now, Paul is having the best season of his life.
Gordon Must Press On
Hearing that Hayward might not be to his regular self for 2-3 years is a devastating thing to hear for Celtics fans. Hayward is definitely still skilled, be he definitely is lacking confidence in himself and his body. There is a ton of dysfunction going on with Boston, from the trade rumors to Kyrie’s drama, so it’s really unfortunate the injury coincides with those issues.
Adding more complication is the report of Gordon spraining his ankle today, but it’s a minor issue and not the same one he injured in 2017. It’s still the last thing fans want to hear when you have a star player trying to regain his rhythm.
It’s unlikely Hayward will retain his former self anytime soon, but he will return to his former self in some capacity. Just probably not until 2020. If you need proof, just look to the MVP candidate in OKC (and I’m not talking about the triple double machine).