Pacers react to Gordon Hayward’s gruesome ankle injury

Tuesday was opening night in the NBA so all eyes were on TNT and two marquee matchups, first in the Eastern Conference and then out west, and the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.

Less than six minutes in, though, Brownsburg native Gordon Hayward got caught up in the air and then landed hard on his left ankle, dislocating it into an unnatural position. The Cavaliers’ bench immediately turned away. Dwyane Wade kneeled to pray. Celtics players huddled up to comfort one another and to say a prayer.

You knew right away with Gordon that it was serious. Quicken Loans Arena went silent.

“That was definitely tough to watch,” Pacers starting center Myles Turner said Wednesday after shootaround. “It’s something that you never want to see in sports. It’s horrific when something like that happens. You feel bad for him.”

Hayward was diagnosed with a dislocated left ankle and a fractured tibia.

Washington, Indiana’s Tyler Zeller is the same age as Hayward. Zeller was voted Indiana Mr. Basketball in 2008. He, too, was watching when the fellow Hoosier went down.

“You hate that for anybody, especially somebody that I saw grow up, saw through high school,” said Tyler, now with the Brooklyn Nets. “He’s gotten everything he deserved working hard at it.”

Pacers veteran Al Jefferson is beginning his 14th season, so he has seen just about everything. He was out of the room when Hayward went down. When he returned, he saw pictures of other played huddled up and fans covering their faces.

No … he has no intention of seeing a replay of Gordon crumbling to the floor.

“I didn’t even want to watch the play, I just seen that he was hurt and it messed me up,” Jefferson said. “I still haven’t seen the Shaun Livingston injury back in the day.

“To see that happen to him, it’s crazy. I couldn’t even watch it.

“The good thing about it is he is young, he can bounce back. Guys have been through it; PG [Paul George] went through it, and look at the way he bounced back.”

Jefferson played alongside Hayward for three seasons in Utah, beginning in 2010 — Hayward’s rookie year.

“When he came in as a rookie, you know he was going to be something,” Jefferson continued. “He was very mature for his age and his IQ for the game was very high. You could tell that. So the things that he did in the last two or three years didn’t surprise me. Him going to Boston, getting back with his old coach from college, I was just really looking forward to see how well that was going to turn out for him.”

Hayward’s injury put a damper on the much-anticipated opening night. The teams managed to move past it and the game — a Cleveland 102-99 win over Boston — came down to the final possession.

Still, it’s hard to get Hayward’s injury out of your head. Jefferson said that’s what the Pacers must do Wednesday as they tip off a new season.

“Being around as long as I have, you’ve seen all them types of injury and you hear about them type of injuries because, as I told you, I don’t watch them,” Jefferson added. “I got to give respect to Boston last night – to see one of their top players go down and having to get it out of their head, and step up and played a great game. That’s what you’ve got to do.”

Paul George, drafted one spot behind Hayward in 2010, spoke with Hayward hours after he was taken off the court in a stretcher. George went through a serious injury himself in 2014.

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Be sad. Be mad. Be frustrated. Scream. Cry. Sulk. When you wake up you will think it was just a nightmare only to realize it’s all too real. You will be angry and wish for the day back, the game back THAT play back. But reality gives nothing back and nor should you. Time to move on and focus on doing everything in your power to prepare for surgery, ask all the questions to be sure you understand fully the procedure so that you may visualize it in your subconscious while being operated on and better the chance of it’s success. Then focus on the recovery process day by day by day. It’s a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things that prior to this injury were taken for granted. This will also mean that when you return you will have a new perspective. You will be so appreciative of being able to stand, walk, run that you will train harder than you ever have. You see the belief within you grow with each mini milestone and you will come back a better player for it. Best of luck to you on this journey my brother #mambamentality always.

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[Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

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