In an emotional interview with the "Today" show, Gordon Hayward said the healing process — both physical and emotional — is under way after he suffered a gruesome injury only a few minutes into his first game with the Boston Celtics.
“I feel better today than I did yesterday. That’s my mindset right now, trying to work through each day, trying to set mini-goals and trying to get on with it,” Hayward told NBC’s Matt Lauer. “Emotionally, it’s hard on me. I love to play the game of basketball so to sit there and not be able to play, it gets kind of frustrating.”
That frustrating process in the aftermath of a surgery required to repair his badly broken left leg won’t be over anytime soon. In his blog, Hayward revealed that he won’t be on the court in Celtic Green this season.
"It’s hard mentally to watch the games because I’m sitting here thinking, ‘I’m not going to be able to help the team on the court this year,'" Hayward wrote. "But I’ve decided that has to stop. I have to change that way of thinking.
"I know I can’t help them physically on the court, but I am going to do everything in my power to support my teammates and coaches in every way imaginable. Whether it’s breaking down film or just providing leadership and guidance, I can’t wait to give back.”
Hayward admitted he thought worst-case scenario moments after he landed awkwardly and his left leg buckled and broke.
“When they were carting me out that’s when it hit me emotionally,” he said. “I got this wave of emotion like, ‘Am I done? Is this my career? Is this over?’”
The 27-year-old is determined that not only are his playing days not over — a full recovery is expected eventually — but that he’ll also return even stronger even if he can only currently shoot baskets while sitting down. The good news health-wise is that it was a clean break. His hard cast has been removed, and he’s now getting around in a walking boot.
“I’m going to come back better than ever, and I firmly believe that,” Hayward told NBC, “but it’s going to be a long process.”
In the interview and on his blog, Hayward gave some details of what he experienced before the injury, during and after the injury, which happened on the opening night of the NBA season two and a half weeks ago.
“I remember looking at (my leg) and it just didn’t look normal. It didn’t look right at all,” Hayward told Lauer. “That will remain with me forever to look down and see my foot the wrong way. That’s something I try not to think about.”
Hayward smiled and added, “My foot’s facing the right way now. I still double-check sometimes.”
The All-Star small forward credited a lot of people for offering helpful support during this difficult period — from his wife Robyn, to his children and parents, medical personnel to Barack Obama, Kobe Bryant, his new team and even his old one.
“I had such a tough decision to leave this summer and yet everyone from (Utah Jazz) ownership, to front office, coaches and all my teammates were immediately there for me,” wrote Hayward, who played for Utah from 2010-17. “They continue to show that they are first class in every way, and I am so fortunate to have been a part of that organization.”
Brad Stevens, Hayward’s longtime mentor and former/current coach, was among the people who helped him get into the airplane to be transported from Cleveland to Boston.
“Getting me onto the plane wasn’t easy. I was on a stretcher, and I had to get carried up two flights of stairs,” he wrote. “They needed four people to carry me, and Coach Stevens was one of those four people. There were probably 25 other people there that all wanted to help, but he wanted to make sure he was one of the people to do it. I mean that’s just the person he is.”
Hayward admitted it was hard emotionally to see his parents cry. He teared up in the "Today" show interview while speaking about his family, including his two young children, 2-year-old Bernie and 1-year-old Charlie.
“As a parent, you don’t want your child to go through that. As a parent, I would rather take their pain. This is where it makes me emotional. I wouldn’t want Bernie and Charlie to go through that,” Hayward said while shedding tears in the interview.
“I remember seeing my mom (at the game in Cleveland) and she’s crying. That’s just tough. It’s tough to see your parents cry, too, because it makes you emotional.”