Hayward Expects to Return Much Earlier than Originally Anticipated

BOSTON – Gordon Hayward’s initial return date from the broken left hand he suffered Nov. 9 against San Antonio was expected to be in late December at the earliest. Such is no longer the case.

Hayward revealed following this afternoon’s practice that he expects to return much earlier than previously expected.

“The last couple of days have been really good,” he said in regard to his rehabilitation progress, before making a shocking declaration: “Tomorrow’s a possibility.”

As in Hayward may actually be suiting up to play Monday night – two weeks earlier than anticipated – when the Celtics host the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden.

Over the last several days, Hayward has noticed a steady improvement in the strength of his left hand, which sustained a broken fourth metacarpal while colliding with Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldrige. The veteran wing said that the bone has completely healed and is probably, in fact, stronger than that of his non-injured shooting hand because of the metal plate and screws that were inserted for support.

“I can’t do anything that’s going to hurt it,” he insisted. “I’m going to have to get hit equally as hard, probably harder than last time because I have the metal in my hand now.

He continued, saying that it’s still going to take a little bit of time before he gets full motion and strength back in his hand. “It’s just whether or not you can play through that and still be effective. That’s kind of what we’re determining. But the bone is healed.”

Hayward began shooting less than two weeks after his surgery, which was performed Nov. 11, and only recently began working through contact drills. He says he’s been a bit apprehensive during those drills, but it’s only a matter of time before he gets over the mental hurdle.

“It’s definitely something I’m still guarding, and it’s going to be like that for a little while,” Hayward noted. “That’s only natural. But part of that is getting out there and playing and getting over it mentally. I have gotten a hit – it reacted normally to that.”

The final checkmark in the whole process is returning to game shape. Since it was an upper-body injury, Hayward was able to maintain his conditioning, but of course, nothing he does in the gym can truly mimic the grinding nature of a 48-minute matchup.

“Doesn’t matter how much conditioning we do off the court, there’s nothing like playing a game,” he explained. “The first stretch of whatever game I play in, for sure I’ll be winded, but after a couple of games, I’ll be back to normal.”

Hayward hopes his first game back will be Monday night against the Cavs, which would certainly be a surprising and early holiday gift for the Celtics.

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