Raptors say rivals or not, NBA players never want to see injuries
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TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan was playing alongside Paul George for the U.S. team when George suffered what had to be one of sport's most gruesome injuries.
And so when Boston's Gordon Hayward went down in a heap Tuesday night, his ankle bent in a way not intended for ankles, DeRozan's mind went immediately back to that horrible night in 2014.
"I had the same feeling that I had when I was on the court when it happened with Paul," DeRozan said. "To watch that, it sucks. It just sucks. Just being a fan of basketball and being excited to watch the game last night, just seeing somebody like that go down, it sucks. I definitely felt for him."
Hayward's grisly injury just five minutes into the season cast a pall on the league's opening night, and led to an outpouring of support around the league as players let out a collective gasp.
"It's something that turns your stomach," said the Raptors' Norm Powell. "You always hope for the players to be injury-free, no matter if they're rivals or whatever. . . You don't want injuries like that to happen."
DeRozan never takes his health for granted.
"Not to give away a secret, and not saying I'm extra superstitious, but every time I walk on the court before the game, I knock on the wood," DeRozan said. "Just hoping for the best. Not just for myself, for everybody. This is a dangerous thing, anything can happen. That's the last thing that you want to see, anybody hurt. I don't care what sport I'm watching, I feel the same way.
"It's how we make a living, for a lot of guys this is our happiness."
Kyle Lowry said he plays every game like "it's your last one."
"I send my prayers to Gordon, he's a great guy," Lowry said. "It's an unfortunate incident, hopefully he'll come back better, bigger, stronger than ever.
Hayward dislocated his left ankle and fractured his tibia in Cleveland, and the Cavaliers went on to beat the stunned Celtics 102-98. George suffered an open tibia-fibia fracture, his leg snapping at a 45-degree angle, when his foot came down on the basket stanchion at a scrimmage in Las Vegas.
DeRozan has meticulously studied where he places his feet on the floor, with potential positions and angles, in hopes of preventing injuries.
"You try to be smart and understand. . . You've kind of got to get a feel, you can't be completely reckless, you train your mind when you go in there to avoid, be elusive when it comes to a lot of things but it's still tough at the end of the day."
Raptors coach Dwane Casey pointed out that with today's advanced sports medicine, Hayward will likely make a complete recovery. George, after all, rebounded to star for the Indiana Pacers. Now with the Oklahoma City Thunder, George is expected to be one of the most coveted free agents next off-season.
DeRozan lashed out at Fox Sports commentator Skip Bayless on Twitter on Tuesday night, after the TV personality made light Hayward's injury.
"If Gordon Hayward is gone, maybe for the season, LeBron's path to losing a sixth finals gets even easier," Bayless tweeted in reference to James' five lost NBA Finals.
DeRozan replied seven minutes later, writing "You're a clown for that tweet after a man gets hurt with a potential career ending injury! (Expletive) bigger then basketball!"