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Gordon Hayward not ruling out return this season

Six days ago, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens couldn’t have said it any clearer when, asked about Gordon Hayward, he said: “He’s not playing this year.” However, it seems the injured forward himself has different thoughts on the topic.

At an unveiling of a new gym at a Boston-area middle school today, Hayward said he will not rule out a return to the lineup. In early November, shortly after Hayward suffered his gruesome ankle injury in Boston’s season-opener, he did rule himself out of such a return. He changed his tune in mid-December, saying he was open to a comeback and that he was “trying to get back as fast as I can.”

Chris Forsberg of has more on Hayward’s comments today regarding a comeback bid:

Less than a week after Celtics coach Brad Stevens offered his most emphatic, “He’s not playing this year,” when asked about Hayward’s recovery, Hayward wouldn’t close the door completely on the possibility.

“My thoughts are that I take it day by day. And I said that from the very beginning, that’s what I would do, not putting a timetable on it,” Hayward said Friday while unveiling a new gym for students at the Timilty Middle School in Roxbury. “The recovery is going well. I’m progressing well. I was in the facility this morning, will be in the facility tomorrow. And that’s kinda my goal — just really focusing day by day.”

Hayward has said multiple times this season that he was hopeful of being able to return.

“The hope is still there,” Hayward said. “It’s something where I’m really honestly not even thinking about it. I know we’re getting toward the end of the year. It’s something that I’m still working toward, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”

Hayward said he ran at 70 percent of his body weight on an anti-gravity treadmill at the team’s practice facility Friday morning. Once he hits 80 percent, he expects to be able to transition to running on his full body weight. Hayward said he can do “baby jumps” but hopes to get further lift after he is able to run.

Hayward made it clear in his comments Friday that he is mostly focused on improvement and taking the necessary steps to be fully healthy before he plays again.

He was injured just five minutes into his debut with the Celtics after signing a lucrative free-agent deal during the offseason. He wrote in his post, titled “In An Instant,” that he “immediately” knew the injury was severe. Throughout his recovery, Hayward has received a wellspring of support, including emails from Kobe Bryant and Barack Obama. He said he’s especially grateful for support from his new organization, which he joined after seven seasons with the Utah Jazz.