CLEVELAND (Ohio) • Boston's Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome broken left ankle barely five minutes into the new National Basketball Association (NBA) season on Tuesday, overshadowing the Cleveland Cavaliers' 102-99 victory in Kyrie Irving's homecoming.
Hayward, the former Utah Jazz All-Star who signed a four-year deal with the Celtics worth US$128 million (S$173 million) in the off-season, was stretchered off the court following a horrific injury that stunned players from both clubs.
Hayward landed hard 5min 15sec into the game after a leaping cut to the basket while trying to catch an alley-oop pass from Irving, the former Cavaliers point guard.
Cleveland superstar LeBron James tried to break up the play. Hayward, 27, was caught in the air and when he landed, his left leg twisted unnaturally, leaving his ankle turned at a grotesque angle.
His team-mates were shocked at the mishap, and the Cavaliers were taken aback as well, with their home arena falling silent as doctors began examining Hayward.
He was subsequently stretchered off with his left leg immobilised from foot to thigh, sitting up on the stretcher as he was carried off.
The Celtics said he had been diagnosed with a broken ankle.
"You hurt for him," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "Hopefully we get a full recovery and it's a tough deal, but I guess that's part of it, the risk of injury. I really feel for him."
It is unclear when Hayward is going to be back, but anyone who saw the injury at the Quicken Loans Arena was under no illusions that a recovery would be a speedy one.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said: "Even though he was from the opposing team, we're still a fraternity, and still brothers. You never want to see anyone get injured."
The injury cast a pall on the much-anticipated start to the NBA's 72nd season.
The pre-game spotlight focused on Irving and his return to Cleveland after being sent to Boston for Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas and forward Jae Crowder, joining the Cavs' other new faces, former NBA Most Valuable Players Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade.
Irving, who teamed with James to reach three straight NBA Finals with the Cavs, winning the title last year, received a chilly reception from the home fans.
James, who scored a game-high 29 points with 16 rebounds and nine assists felt the new-look Cavs needed more time to gel.
"It's a work in progress, for sure," he added.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST