Associated Press

Gordon Hayward, in blog post, expresses thanks for support

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BOSTON (AP) — Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics says he knows he will not play again this season, after needing surgery to repair a grotesque leg injury on opening night last month.

The announcement, on Hayward’s Facebook page, came as little surprise given the severity of the injury. Hayward wrote about several previously unrevealed aspects of the injury and the aftermath, including how four people – including Celtics coach Brad Stevens – were needed to carry him onto the plane that night in Cleveland, and how even former President Barack Obama has been among those sending well-wishes for his recovery.

“I honestly can’t say enough about everyone’s kindness,” Hayward wrote.

Hayward is expected to hold a news conference at the Celtics’ facility in Waltham, Massachusetts, on Thursday. He also has taped an interview that will appear Thursday on NBC’s “Today.”

Hayward was injured about 5 minutes into the opener at Cleveland, a shocking end to a season of great expectations. Hayward was one of the marquee prizes of free agency this past summer, leaving Utah and signing with Boston to chase an NBA title and reunite with Stevens, his college coach at Butler.

“I keep imagining what it’s going to be like to step onto the floor at the Garden, and make my regular season debut as a Celtic,” Hayward wrote. “It’s going to be a little delayed. But with each day of my rehab, I’ll be that much closer to making it happen. I’m already dreaming about sharing that moment with everyone here in Boston.”

Hayward said when he saw his foot pointing the wrong way after his awkward landing, the pain was not initially very intense. It was, however, when doctors tending to him on the floor tried to re-set his ankle.

“The moment they did it, there was just a massive shot of pain, probably the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” Hayward wrote.

The Celtics lost in Cleveland that night, and Hayward was with the team for the flight home. The Celtics played their home opener the next night, while Hayward was in surgery.

“On the flight back, my teammates all came by to encourage me,” Hayward wrote. “It was very emotional for me to see how all of these new teammates of mine, guys who I had only spent a few weeks with at that point, were so sincere about their concern for me. Their support has at times overwhelmed me and it will not be forgotten.”

Hayward said he’s heard from plenty of stars from the NBA and other sports, like NFL stars Odell Beckham Jr. and J.J. Watt, retired Lakers great Kobe Bryant – and Oklahoma City’s Paul George, who also had a horrible fracture while playing for USA Basketball in 2014.

“He knows better than anyone, maybe, exactly what it is I’m going through, and will be going through,” Hayward wrote. “I’m thankful that he reached out right away, and that’s he’s someone I can continue to talk to.”

As for Obama, who is a huge basketball fan?

“That was a pretty big deal,” Hayward said.

Hayward said it was difficult at first to watch Celtics games, knowing he couldn’t play. But he’s started watching, and hopes to have some sort of role the rest of the season.

“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,” Hayward wrote. “Whether it’s breaking down film or just providing leadership and guidance, I can’t wait to give back. I’ve already received so much.”

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

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After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.

Report: Jon Leuer expected to return to Pistons by start of season

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Pistons big Jon Leuer underwent meniscus surgery, leaving plenty of doubt about his availability for next season.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

After losing Anthony Tolliver in free agency (to the Timberwolves), Detroit needs Leuer as a stretch big off the bench. Unless Henry Ellenson is ready for rotation minutes, which…

If Leuer isn’t quite ready for the start of the season, Stanley Johnson could play small-ball four, but that weakens wing depth.

The Pistons’ best hope is Leuer getting healthy on schedule.

John Oliver roasts Dwight Howard in monologue on trade (video)

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Mocking Dwight Howard‘s frequent team changes has become commonplace around the NBA.

It even has crossover appeal.

On “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver opened his monologue on President Donald Trump’s trade war with a few jokes at Howard’s expense. Suffice to say, Oliver doesn’t believe Howard will transform with the Wizards.

(warning: rest of Oliver’s speech contains not-safe-for-work language)

Paul Pierce: I played all 82 games after stabbing to cope with depression

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Paul Pierce was stabbed 11 times at a Boston nightclub on Sept. 25, 2000. He suffered a collapse lung and underwent emergency surgery. But Pierce famously played all 82 of the Celtics’ games that season. That feat was seen as a testament to his resolve.

Really, it was a coping mechanism .

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Long after he was released from the hospital, Pierce remained nervous, jittery, anxious. He couldn’t sleep. The Celtics urged him to seek counseling, but he waved them off. “I thought, ‘I can do this myself,'” Pierce recalls. “I didn’t want anybody else in my business.”

But as the weeks dragged on, moving around in public spaces became almost unbearable for Pierce. The trauma of the event had stripped him of his confidence. His anxiety spiked while dining at Morton’s restaurant in Boston just a few months after the stabbing, when the manager approached him with a house phone and said a friend was insistent on speaking with Pierce. He picked up the receiver, and a menacing voice sneered, “I’m going to kill you.”

“So now I’m really paranoid,” Pierce says. “I don’t want to go anywhere. The police sat in the front of my house for months. I was a mess.

“I think that’s the reason I got back on the court so fast. Me sitting at home thinking about [the stabbing] didn’t work. I went to every practice, sat on the sideline for hours, because that’s where I felt safe. I didn’t want those practices to end because then I had to go back out there in this world that really scared me.”

“I should have opened up earlier than I did,” Pierce admits. “It was eating me alive. Once I finally started talking to a family member, it helped me.

“I realized, ‘I should have done this sooner.’ I would tell everyone to get the help they need. My depression was bad — really bad. I never want to feel that way again.”

This is one small excerpt of MacMullan’s incredible piece on mental health in the NBA. I highly recommend reading it in full.