CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA – The Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward says just getting back on the court Friday felt like a victory after scoring 10 points in his first NBA game in almost a year.
“Been waiting a long time to lace back up and get out there with the guys,” said Hayward, who suffered a gruesome leg injury in the Celtics’ season opener on Oct. 17, 2017.
“I don’t think I was playing my best basketball. But I was having fun out there.”
Despite Hayward’s return, the Celtics dropped their preseason opener against the Charlotte Hornets 104-97 on Friday at the Dean E. Smith Center.
Hayward finished with 10 points in his first game since that serious injury in Cleveland in which he broke his fibula and dislocated his ankle.
He started at forward alongside Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving.
“I missed him,” said Irving.
Hayward delivered an easy basket early in the first quarter after grabbing an offensive rebound. He finished 2-for-7 from the field in just over 20 minutes of playing time.
Irving, who suffered a 2017-18 season-ending injury on March 11 when he hurt his knee, also made his return. Irving finished with just nine points.
“I thought there were a lot of great talking and teaching points in this game,” said Boston coach Brad Stevens. “It’s a reminder of how hard it is to win in this league.”
Jeremy Lamb scored 15 points for Charlotte, which finished with seven players in double figures.
Guard Tony Parker made his debut with the Hornets, after 17 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. Parker missed all three shots he attempted and went scoreless on the night.
Cody Zeller scored 13 points and Kemba Walker had 12 for the Hornets.
Boston led by as many as 20 points in the first half.
Charlotte used a huge third-quarter run to enter the fourth trailing 84-81.
Boston got back up by four with six minutes remaining in the game, but the Hornets closed it out with a 17-6 run highlighted by a pair of dynamic dunks from rookie Miles Bridges.
“I’m just proud of the guys, proud of how they stuck in the game,” said Hornets new head coach James Borrego.