It appears that the Charlotte Hornets will be without Gordon Hayward for the second straight preseason game. Hayward is dealing with some discomfort in his right foot, and the Hornets are playing it safe, considering it is only a preseason matchup.
Head coach Steve Clifford was asked about Hayward’s status on Saturday. While Clifford does believe that Hayward will ultimately be fine, saying “hopefully he’ll be back Monday.” indicates that he will not be making an appearance for Sunday’s preseason contest against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.
This all but confirms that they are focusing on the big picture in Charlotte and not attempting to win what is ultimately a meaningless game by forcing an injury-prone 33-year-old to participate.
Hayward participated in Charlotte’s first preseason game, a 113-109 loss to the Miami Heat. The 13-year veteran would finish with 15 points, three rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 23 minutes of game action. Brandon Miller would start in Hayward’s place Thursday, scoring nine points while adding six rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block while Charlotte fell short, losing 98-92 to the Washington Wizards. Expect Miller to see another start with Hayward on the sideline.
The former Butler Bulldog is entering the final year of the four-year deal he signed with the Hornets before the 2020-2021 season. Hayward has been the subject of trade rumors for quite some time and was recently named the Hornets’ most likely trade candidate. The Indiana native averaged 14.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in 50 games last season. 2022-23 was the third straight season that saw Hayward’s scoring average drop, going from 19.6 in his first year to 15.9 in 2021-22, and finally, last year’s total. It is clear that Hayward’s best days are behind him, but he could still be a productive player in a much different role on a contending team. But in order for that to happen, he is going to need to be healthy, or at least something close to it.