A little more than a month from now, the Boston Celtics' season officially begins against the Philadelphia 76ers (8 ET, TNT). When that game tips off on Oct. 16, Celtics forward Gordon Hayward plans to be on the court for it.
Hayward met with the media in Boston today at the Auerbach Center at New Balance World Headquarters to discuss how he's faring in his injury rehab work. He suffered a gruesome,season-ending ankle and tibia injury just five minutes into the Celtics' first game last season, but has been hard at work to get ready for the start of the 2018-19 season.
"I expect to be out there," Hayward said Thursday. "I would say I'm basically 100 percent. There are certain things that I think are going to take time. Even if I was 100 percent healthy, I'm not 100 percent basketball-wise, just because I haven't played in a year. I'm trying to figure those things out."
Hayward said he has celebrated each bit of progress -- the walking boot coming off, or shooting baskets standing up, instead of sitting in a chair. Within the past two weeks, he has been able to play five-on-five basketball.
"With each step I get some joy," said Hayward, who then slipped into his Celtics uniform and took part in a photoshoot.
Now, he said, he is ready to get back in the green for real.
"The hardest part of the whole process has been the mental challenge," he said. "I think you find the fight within yourself."
Hayward said he's still working to get fully back into game shape and that getting his full explosiveness back remains one of the last things he must overcome before the season begins. That all said, Hayward said he has played 5-on-5 for the last two weeks with no restrictions.
"There’s certain things that are going to take time. I’m not 100 percent basketball-wise because I haven’t played in a year,” he said.
Gordon Hayward says he has played 5-on-5 for the last two weeks with no restrictions. pic.twitter.com/cL78A9WzgD— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) September 13, 2018
Hayward said he feels 100 percent, and the last step is getting full explosiveness back. https://t.co/Nddi9nZu3z— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) September 13, 2018
Hayward has documented his injury rehab process and workouts via social media and said earlier this summer on his web site that he hoped to be participating in full-court, 5-on-5 workouts by late July. Overall, Boston suffered minimal offseason roster losses among its key rotation players as only center Greg Monroe (who signed with Toronto) and guard Shane Larkin (who will be playing in Turkey) won't be back for 2018-19.
"Watching the guys last year just gave me a lot of confidence in our team and what I think we have the ability to do ... We have a lot of depth and it’s going to be a fun year," Hayward said Thursday.
Gordon Hayward: "Watching the guys last year just gave me a lot of confidence in our team and what I think we have the ability to do … We have a lot of depth and it’s going to be a fun year."— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) September 13, 2018
A week ago, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he is counting on having a fully healthy roster once the Celtics open training camp on Sept. 24. Aside from losing Hayward for essentially the entire 2017-18 season, star guard Kyrie Irving missed the final 15 games of the 2017-18 season and the entire playoffs to repair his left knee.
"I've been told that everybody is going to be ready to go," Stevens said in early September. “It’ll be a great opportunity to start afresh with a brand new team, though we do have a lot of guys back, and see if we can be the best version of ourselves."
Hayward told reporters he is overall happy to be back in the mix with his Boston teammates and is looking forward to the forthcoming season.
“It’s so much fun being able to play again, and play with my teammates," Hayward said Thursday. "Using these past two weeks and the next month or so will be good to kind of get back into the game, feel the rhythm, the timing, different things like that, but it feels pretty good."
Gordon Hayward: “It’s so much fun being able to play again, and play with my teammates. Using these past two weeks and the next month or so will be good to kind of get back into the game, feel the rhythm, the timing, different things like that, but it feels pretty good."— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) September 13, 2018
Despite the loss of their starting backcourt, the Celtics still advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, falling to the Cavaliers in seven games. Given that LeBron James is now out of the East -- he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, meaning his eight-year run of being on the team that wins the East is ending -- Boston figures to be a popular pick to reach the NBA Finals next season.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.