Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is now a couple months removed from the gruesome leg injury that he suffered in his 2017-18 debut. And Hayward’s broken ankle makes it seem unlikely that he’ll be back this year.
This is even the case when considering that Hayward is making progress with his recovery, including taking his walking boot off and wearing a smaller ankle brace.
But the 7-year veteran has thought about the possibility of returning to the court this season. Let’s discuss what Hayward had to say on the matter along with the reality of the situation.
“I’m Definitely Pushing to Get Back”
When Boston signed Hayward to a four-year, $128-million contract, he was seen as a big piece that would help the Celtics compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even without their starting small forward, Boston has jumped out to the Eastern Conference lead with a 22-5 record.
According to the Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach, Hayward has spent a considerable amount of time thinking about this himself.
“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” Hayward said. “I’m definitely pushing to get back as fast as I can, while making sure that I still have a lot of good years of basketball in me. And coming back early and hurting something else is not part of that plan.
“So I’m making sure that if I come back, I’m 1,000 percent confident in myself and my leg. I hope more than anything I can play this season. That would be awesome. But that’s not something I’m stressing about. I’m stressing about what I can do today to help myself get better.”
Hayward’s Return would be March at the Earliest
Gordon Hayward is making some real progress with his rehabilitation. He shows up at the team facilities every day from 10am to 2pm. Here, Hayward does everything from lifting weights and shooting to doing range of motion exercises. He also does an extra hour of rehabilitation at home during the evening.
Perhaps the greatest sign that Hayward is getting better is how he was able to stop using crutches. He’s also alternating between a small ankle brace and walking boot. In two weeks, he’ll completely transition to the walking boot.
He and general manager Danny Ainge also developed a unique “marble challenge” that he’s been doing during the rehabilitation process. Here’s a look at how Himmelsbach describes the marble challenge:
“In one of the competitions, “multiple marble madness,” 17 marbles are placed on a small towel and Hayward must pick them up with his toes and deposit them in a box as quickly as possible. The first time he tried it with his injured left foot, it took him 4 minutes, 57 seconds. And he said he probably cheated, too. This week, he did it in 38 seconds.
“Little things like that,” Hayward said. “Like, I can tell I got better today because I shaved three seconds off my PR.”
“Then there is the “Celtic chair challenge,” in which a competitor must make a half-court shot while seated. Entrants pay $1 per attempt, with a maximum of five shots per day. The jackpot accumulates until one goes in.”
Based on how everything is going, it seems that Hayward might be able to reach his earliest predicted return date of March. But how his body heals will be the biggest determinant of when he gets back to the court.
Even then, it’s hard to know when Hayward’s ankle will be up to the rigors of the NBA season. This is especially the case when considering that the Celtics will be preparing for the playoffs.
Brad Stevens Says No Plans for Hayward Return
According to Boston Celtics reporter Jay King, head coach Brad Stevens said that there are no current plans to play Hayward this season.
Brad Stevens reiterated the Celtics are not planning for a Gordon Hayward return this season.
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) December 10, 2017
This makes sense, given that fact that even if Hayward returns, he’d have to get into playing shape. And as mentioned before, Hayward would be coming back on the brink of the playoffs.
Of course, Boston would certainly like to have their star small forward back. But they’re not going to risk his long-term health just to add more depth for the playoffs. This is especially the case when considering that Boston already has enough good forwards in Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, and Jayson Tatum.
This being said, chances are that the Boston lineup we see right now is the one who’ll be competing for an Eastern Conference title. And given how the Celtics are currently playing, they’ll take their chances and look forward to having a healthy Hayward in the 2018-19 campaign.