Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward recently said he has yet to rule out a return to the court this season.
Days before that, Celtics coach Brad Stevens sounded pretty emphatic that Hayward will not return this season.
What was left after those words was a mixed message of sorts that Celtics fans have been trying to decipher.
In an interview today with the “Toucher & Rich” show on 98.5 The SportsHub in Boston, Celtics president of operations Danny Ainge provided insight on Hayward’s status. Ainge said Hayward had a small setback in his rehab work a few weeks ago that, it appears, altered the timeline for a potential return this season.
However, Ainge made it clear that Hayward overall remains on track with his rehab work for his fractured ankle, writes ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg:
Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Gordon Hayward experienced a minor setback in his recovery recently but said the team remains encouraged by the progress he has made in rehabbing from a fractured ankle.
“[Hayward] had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago. We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought,” Ainge told the “Toucher & Rich” program during his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio 98.5 the SportsHub. “But, other than that, his work ethic and his determination have been amazing.
“I don’t want to get people’s hopes up. He still is not back on the basketball court and we have a month left in the regular season. He’s got a ways to go but we’re excited about his progress and his determination.”
Ainge also touched on the status of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who has been sidelined of late by knee soreness. Ainge was asked whether or not Irving may need surgery in the future to fix the recurring knee issues.
Irving said the knee started bothering him during a March 3 showdown with the Houston Rockets, a game the Celtics lost 123-120. The former No. 1 overall pick sat out a March 5 win against the Chicago Bulls to rest that same knee, which he broke during Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He did suit up to play in Boston’s victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 8.
Since than, Irving played 16 minutes in a Sunday loss to the Indiana Pacers and did not play in last night’s double-overtime loss to the Washington Wizards.
“He has a surgery that may need to happen,” Ainge told the SportsHub. “But maybe not this summer, maybe the following summer or maybe the summer after that. I think that he could probably do it any time he wanted, but I’m not sure that it’s needed at this moment.”
“Kyrie had the injury, I don’t know now, two and a half years ago, three years ago. So we knew there would be maintenance issues, but his long-term prognostication is good,” Ainge told the SportsHub. “He’s going to have some maintenance issues here and there. We knew coming into this year that he probably wasn’t going to be an 82-game guy. He was going to be a 72- to 75-game guy in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs and that’s what it’s been.
“We’re just extra cautious. We have the good fortune of being extra cautious right now. We want him fresh and healthy and we think that he will be come playoff time.”
The Celtics, who have 14 games left in their season and are No. 2 in the Eastern Conference, trail the No. 1-seeded Toronto Raptors by 4 1/2 games.
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