NBA: Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets

The Celtics’ Gordon Hayward goes up for a shot in the Charlotte game last Thursday.

GORDON HAYWARD deserved better fortune.

After losing his entire first season as a Celtic to that horrific leg injury and then experiencing the ups and downs of his first year back from that catastrophe, Hayward was finally looking like the guy the Celtics thought he would be when they gave him the big bucks.

In short, he and his team were off to a great start. An opening night loss was followed by seven straight wins heading into Monday night’s home game against Dallas. Included in his early special play was Hayward becoming the first player in 52 years to go at least 16-for-16 from the floor on 2-point shots in a game.

Then, Saturday night, during a Celtics blowout win in San Antonio, Hayward ran into large body LaMarcus Aldridge and broke his left hand.

Just like that, the comeback was on hold.

“This one doesn’t feel nearly as bad as it did two years ago,” coach Brad Stevens said Saturday. “He’ll be back. But he’ll be off for a few weeks, or a month, or whatever it is.”

Monday night, Boston journalist Gethin Coolbaugh tweeted that the Celtics announced Hayward underwent “successful” surgery to repair a fourth metacarpal fracture in his left hand, and he’s expected to return in approximately six weeks.

Even with leaving Saturday night’s game after logging just 15 minutes (nine points), Hayward is averaging 31.1 minutes, 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.

If you’re thinking Hayward is injury prone after these two mishaps … well, this is new for him. He played in at least 72 games in seven of his eight years in Utah. The numbers — 72, 66, 72, 77, 76, 80 and 73 — were hardly iron man stats, but he was NOT injury prone, not made of glass like one Celts fan offered Saturday night.

Three straight

OK, now it’s a losing streak.

The Bruins got a point out of Sunday night’s home game against the Flyers, but the B’s have a three-game losing streak.

Last year, the Bruins never lost four in a row on their run to the Stanley Cup Final. The Panthers, a much better team with Joel Quenneville behind the bench, bring an 8-4-5 record to TD Garden Tuesday night.

David Pastrnak was stopped on a third-period penalty shot and then during the shootout Sunday night. Hard to believe he is 3-for-19 in shootouts in his career. Strangely, too, Brad Marchand is just 9-for-39.

Oh, and Jaro Halak fell to 32-32 all-time in shootouts.

Big news out of Canada Monday that former Bruins coach and all-time great showman Don Cherry was fired by Sportsnet for racially charged comments (calling immigrants “you people”) he made Saturday night. Cherry went down Monday with guns blazing, refusing to back off of his comments.

Old friends

Something we’ll do periodically; catching up on the members of last year’s Celtics scattered around the NBA, through Sunday:

Kyrie Irving: 30.0 pts, 7.2 assists, 5.6 rebounds per game

Al Horford: 15.9 pts, 7.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists

Aron Baynes: 15.8 pts, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists

Marcus Morris: 18.1 pts, 5.7rebounds, 1.2 assists

Terry Rozier: 15.2 pts, 5.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds

Records: the Nets are 4-5, Sixers 6-3, Suns 6-3, Knicks 2-8, Hornets 4-6.

Gronk watch

Speaking of old pals, Rob Gronkowski’s name popped up again Sunday. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Robert Kraft asked the big fella way back in March that he would love it if Gronk would return late in the season and be available for the playoffs.

It served as the latest tease for Patriots fans dying to have their tight end back.

For the record, there is NO indication Gronk is thinking of returning. If it IS going to happen, it has to take place by Nov. 30.

It wasn’t long ago that he told WEEI, “When I retired, I retired for a reason. It would be a no. There it is. … I’m enjoying myself right now. I don’t have that itch, and if I had that itch I’d go back. It would have to be a continuous itch. I see Tom (Brady) throw a nice touchdown pass, I’m like ‘I wish that was me.’ But that’s five seconds (and it’s gone).”

And remember, Gronk has lauded the positive effects of CBD topical cream on his healing body and CBD is on the list of the league’s banned substances. He has money invested in CBDMedic and a return could lead to a four-game suspension — which is what happened to Ben Watson when he came out of retirement to return to the Pats.

Meetings underway

The MLB general managers are meeting in Arizona, unofficially kicking off the offseason. While all eyes and ears around here center around what the Red Sox do with Mookie Betts — pick a day and the speculation — players head Tony Clark is focused on hoping this offseason isn’t a repeat of last when players didn’t get signed until well after the new year.

Mookie? Those who speculate that no one is going to trade for Betts for one year only have to look back a year, when the Cardinals went out and traded for Paul Goldschmidt, who was in the same boat as Betts is in now. He wasn’t a super-big money guy like Betts but did get $1 million to move and also attracted three prospects and a competitive balance draft pick. So, it CAN be done.

In short, if the Red Sox plan on keeping Betts and getting a draft pick for him next year as he walks out the door, they’re either not telling the truth about getting under $208 million or they get something going to move some other money.

Sunday leftovers

Interesting stat flashed on the screen Sunday during the Steelers’ win over the Rams. Best NFL record from November-January since 2014 — and this was just regular season: Steelers 33-12; Patriots 30-12; Chiefs 31-14; Seahawks 32-14. …

The Chiefs got Patrick Mahomes back Sunday and he threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns, but their run defense was again weak and their record fell to 6-4. “This is why I don’t like the Kansas City Chiefs going deep into the playoffs. Because their run defense is not very good,” Rodney Harrison said on NBC. …

Yes, it was the winless Bengals, but Lamar Jackson was again special Sunday, accounting for four touchdowns and joining Ben Roethlisberger as the only players ever with two perfect quarterback ratings in a game twice in the same season.

“All you can say is, wow … It’s unreal,” said NBC’s Chris Simms. …

Mike Tomlin’s team got away with what looked like a pass interference penalty in the end zone at the end of the game, but the Steelers, without Roethlisberger, have won four straight after starting 1-4. That’s a credit to Tomlin’s coaching. The man can coach!

Finally, Monday marked the 78th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio named American League MVP over Ted Williams. DiMaggio had a 56-game hitting streak and a pennant that year. Williams hit .406.

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Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.