The entire NBA world fell into a state of shock during opening night this season, as one of the most anticipated matchups this year started out dreadfully.
During the first quarter of the opening game between the Cavs and Celtics, Boston's new acquisition Gordon Hayward came down hard after going up for an alley-oop, breaking his ankle as he landed, which resulted in one of the more gruesome sights the NBA has witnessed.
Then and there, many ruled out Boston's chances in the East, and assumed Hayward would be out for the rest of the season rehabbing from the injury. Many have been proven wrong after opening night, however, as Boston went on a tear after their first two games without Hayward, managing to top the East with a 16-game winning streak. But fans may also be proven wrong with their other prediction, as Hayward is reportedly eyeing a return before the end of the regular season.
In an interview with Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe, Hayward stated he's trying to come back as quick as possible, and that there's a chance he could be back playing for Boston before the season is over.
"It's definitely in the back of my mind," he said. "I'm definitely pushing to get back as fast as I can, while making sure that I still have a lot of good years of basketball in me."
That is just insane that there's a possiblity Hayward could be back only months after the horrific injury he suffered.
Despite his optimism though, Hayward admits that he's still going to take things extra cautious, and if he isn't feeling 100%, he can wait until next season.
"So I'm making sure that if I come back, I'm 1,000 percent confident in myself and my leg," Hayward said. "I hope more than anything I can play this season. That would be awesome. But that's not something I'm stressing about. I'm stressing about what I can do today to help myself get better."
With the severity of the injury in mind -- a dislocated ankle and fractured tibia -- it's no wonder Gordon wants to be confident in his abilities before returning, as any risk of re-injury could end his career.
It's fair to say though that if Hayward manages to come back, even for the playoffs, the Celtics may have a chance to go all the way. Without their star forward, Boston currently sits on a 22-5 record behind Kyrie Irving's stellar play and Brad Stevens' excellent coaching. They're the best in East, even after their second option was ruled out for the season. Adding him back into the lineup for the business end of the season would only strengthen their play, and could even push them into title contention along with the Cavs.