Hayward Progressing, Won't Rule Out 17-18 Return

BOSTON – Celtics wing Gordon Hayward underwent treatment on his injured left leg Friday night inside a quiet medical room adjacent to Boston’s locker room at TD Garden. All the while, his Celtics teammates were taking part in a game that he had been looking forward to competing in for months.

The Utah Jazz, Hayward’s former team, were in the building, and he wanted nothing more than to break out of that medical room and face off against his ex-teammates.

But that was not a possibility. He is still far from ready to return from the gruesome left ankle dislocation and tibia fracture that he suffered Opening Night. The most he could do was listen to the television broadcast as he lay face-down on a medical table, deep inside the bowels of the Garden.

“I wish I was out there,” Hayward told a throng of media ahead of tip-off. “This is a game I had circled. I know [the Jazz] did – and in front of my home crowd, it would have been a lot of fun.”

As somber as that sounds, Hayward was thankful to simply be present at TD Garden Friday night. He has been confined to his home during so much of his rehabilitation process. This marked only the second regular season game he has attended all season.

The only other game that he went to was the Golden State matchup in mid-November, when he showed up to TD Garden with crutches and a walking boot. This time, he arrived wearing a slim ankle brace and showed little-to-no sign of any limp as he strolled the halls of his home arena.

“[I have] more mobility, so I’m able to walk around without as much help,” said Hayward, who discarded the boot for the brace Wednesday. “I’m able to do a lot more stuff rehab-wise like standing up; I don’t have to shoot in a chair anymore. Slowly but surely, I’ll keep adding to that. Right now, I’m doing stuff with the bike, slowly progressing to using a little bit of both legs and then the next step is both legs running and all that stuff, so we’ll get there.”

One of the perks also includes the ability to attend more games. It just so happened to be that his move to the brace occurred two days before his former team came to town.

“The plan was to start coming to games as soon as I got the brace and was out of the boot,” said Hayward, whose Celtics ended up suffering a 107-95 loss to the Jazz. “This kind of happened to be right around the same time, so I would have gone to the game (regardless of who we were playing). Before (Wednesday's game) I had an appearance at the Boys and Girls Club and was on my feet all day (so I didn't come to the game). This was kind of just happenstance.”

The next step, when his mobility improves even more, will be to attend Celtics road games. That being said, he’s still a little ways from reaching that goal.

“I’ll expect to travel when I’m able to,” said Hayward. “Right now, my focus is rehab and trying to get all the right training.”

And the next step after that? Returning to the court to play.

Hayward and the team have said that they’re not anticipating or planning on him returning to the court this season, but they’re also not ruling out the possibility.

“My mind is open to [returning],” Hayward said. “I’m trying to get back as fast as I can. It all depends on how I heal and taking it day-by-day, goal-by-goal. We will see what happens.”

In the meantime, Hayward will continue along the arduous road to recovery while cheering on his Celtics teammates and providing tips and support when he can.

"It's a long process and it's a grind,” said Hayward. “It's pretty tough to do every day, but that is my job right now. My job is trying to rehab and get better.”

Having that mentality is what has allowed Hayward to progress through the rehabilitation process so quickly. And it is what will enable him to return to the court at full-strength, whether it be this season or next.