BOSTON – All indications are that Gordon Hayward will return to Boston’s lineup tonight, exactly four weeks after he underwent surgery to repair a fracture in his left hand.
Brad Stevens told reporters that Hayward was a full participant in Monday morning’s shootaround with the intent of him being active to take on the Cavaliers tonight at TD Garden.
“He went through everything today,” Stevens said. “Meeting with our trainers now. Walked through with the intention of playing. So we’ll see what happens out of that meeting.”
Typically, when a player makes it through a practice and a shootaround with no issues, which appears to be the case with Hayward, he is activated for that night’s game.
Hayward’s return to the lineup would provide a significant boost to a Celtics team that has already jumped out to a 16-5 record on the season. Hayward was averaging 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game through the team’s first eight games of the season, and he eclipsed the 20-point barrier during four of those contests. He was arguably Boston’s top all-around player through the first two weeks of the season.
The intelligence with which Hayward plays the game should make his return to the lineup relatively smooth, both for him and for his teammates. Teammates mesh well with his game.
“Gordon is so smart and he knows how to play the game,” said teammate Kemba Walker. “He’s so easy to play with. I don’t think there will be any challenges. I think he’s gonna come in and do as well as he did before he got hurt.”
Most will associate those comments with Hayward’s offense, but Stevens was quick to remind the media surrounding him Monday morning about Hayward’s impact at the defensive end.
Hayward, at 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds with a long wingspan, is one of Boston’s most versatile and intelligent defenders. His presence on the floor gives the Celtics a heightened level of comfort, because they know he’ll be in the right place at the right time.
“One of the things about our defense that I think has made our defense (great) when we’ve played our best is our ability to cover for one another when people are in tough spots,” Stevens said. “He can read those situations well. He’s a good communicator.”
Boston has been antsy for a month now to add those traits back into its lineup. Still, it appears, that lineup will not be whole tonight.
Stevens revealed that Marcus Smart is questionable for tonight’s game with an eye infection, and that second-year center Rob Williams will not play due to a sore left hip. Smart is being treated with eye drops and will be a game-time decision, according to the coach.
Even if Smart and Williams are forced to miss tonight’s game, Boston will still be well-positioned to grab a win with the expected return of Hayward. The team’s Big Four of Walker, Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum would finally be reunited while taking on a Cavaliers team that has dropped 12 of its last 13 games, including a 47-point loss Saturday night at the hands of the 76ers.
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