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Gordon Hayward says he’ll play in opener vs. Cavaliers [UPDATE]

Hornets small forward fractured his fifth finger on the shooting hand.

Charlotte Hornets guard forward Gordon Hayward breaks through the Toronto Raptors defense during the second half half at the Spectrum Center. Raptors won 112-109. Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Dec. 22, 1:00 p.m. — Gordon Hayward told reporters Tuesday that he will play in Wednesday’s opener vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Charlotte Hornets SF Gordon Hayward has suffered an avulsion fracture in the fifth finger on his right hand, the team announced on Wednesday afternoon. Hayward is being listed as day-to-day, which could put his status in doubt for the Hornets’ season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 23. The Hornets signed Hayward via free agency this offseason.

Hayward signed a four-year, $120 million contract as part of a sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics this offseason. He was expected to come into the starting small forward spot on a young, rebuilding Hornets squad. Charlotte just drafted LaMelo Ball with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Ball could be the immediate beneficiary of Hayward’s injury if the veteran should miss any time.

If we look at the Hornets’ depth chart, the more logical person to slide into the starting lineup is forward Miles Bridges. We could also see more of Cody Martin and Caleb Martin off the bench. Again, we don’t know if this will hold Hayward out long-term. It’s just a fracture in a finger on his shooting hand, which is reason for there to be concern. If it were the non-shooting hand, maybe it’s a different story. The Hornets also have no reason to risk their shiny new toy after he signed a pretty big contract.

As for Hayward, once we have a timetable, we can properly assess how far down this will drop him in terms of rankings. Prior to the injury, I had Hayward No. 49 overall in my top 100 rankings. Considering he’s DTD, I don’t think we need to drop him down too far, we just need to be aware that Hayward could miss a game or two. If the injury becomes an issue after Hayward plays, it could raise some red flags. Hayward isn’t really a must-have fantasy basketball asset, so I’d feel comfortable staying away from him in this range if injuries are going to be an issue again.