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Gordon Hayward’s playoff status uncertain beyond four weeks: ‘It’s definitely gutting’

Gordon Hayward, cutting hard to the basket in Game 1, knew his right ankle sprain was bad the moment it happened.Pool/Getty

When Gordon Hayward landed awkwardly on his right foot after going up for a rebound in the final minutes of the Celtics’ playoff win over the 76ers Monday, he was not sure how severe the injury was, but he was sure that it was not good.

“I knew right away,” Hayward said Thursday. “I heard it and felt it and knew it wasn’t just your casual rolled ankle. It was swollen by the time I was leaving the court, so I knew that it was definitely worse than normal.”

He was given a walking boot and he left the arena on crutches, and an MRI later revealed that he had a Grade 3 ankle sprain, which involves a complete ligament tear. Hayward is expected to be sidelined for about four weeks, but he said Thursday that the timeline is unclear, because so much will depend on how his body responds to treatment.

But he will not play in the remainder of this opening-round series against Philadelphia, and it appears unlikely that he would be in position to return in time for a potential conference semifinal, most likely against the defending champion Raptors.


“It’s definitely gutting,” Hayward said. “It sucks. There’s nothing else to say about that.”

In the opening minutes of his Celtics debut in 2017, Hayward shattered his left ankle when he took a hard fall after going up for an alley-oop. He missed all of that season and went through a grueling rehabilitation that included everything from taking shots while sitting in a chair to building strength in his surgically repaired leg by picking up marbles with his toes.

Gordon Hayward looks to pass against Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle of the 76ers earlier this week.Pool/Getty

“The mental side of rehab is by far more difficult than the physical side of rehab,” Hayward said. “There’s a lot of time when you are alone and a lot of time when you are contemplating, a lot of time to think.


“The mental side is the hardest part. I think having good people around you is very key, it’s very important, and I definitely have that.”

This ankle injury is not nearly as bad as the last one, but Dr. Rachel Triche, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, believes that Hayward’s past recovery could benefit him now.

“He unfortunately already has a lot of experience with rehabilitating an even worse ankle injury, so he knows how this is going to go, to a certain extent,” said Triche, a team physician for the US women’s soccer team.

“And obviously his training staff is familiar with things that work for him, things that might be better for him than for different athletes. So there is this component where different athletes respond to different techniques.”

Hayward said that for now he is planning to stay in the Orlando bubble to receive treatment. Boston’s medical staff is there, and he can support his teammates in person. Also, if Hayward leaves Orlando, he would face a mandatory four-day quarantine upon his return. Hayward joked that maybe some Disney magic would speed up his recovery.

But the situation is a bit complicated. Hayward’s wife, Robyn, is expecting the couple’s fourth child in September. Hayward was already planning to leave Orlando to be there for the baby’s birth, and he said he will consider potential options now.


Gordon Hayward shoots over Philadelphia's Matisse Thybulle earlier this week.Ashley Landis/Associated Press

“I think it’s two separate things, but it’s something I’m taking a look at,” he said. “It’s just very unfortunate, the timing of the whole deal, so I think I’m just trying to take it day by day.”

This season, Hayward averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists, and he shot 50 percent from the field. His absence puts a dent in Boston’s hopes of a long playoff run, but the team’s resounding Game 2 win over the Sixers without him was encouraging, particularly because of the key contributions from the bench.

“Obviously, no one can replace what Gordon brings to the team,” backup point guard Brad Wanamaker said. “Me and the other guys on the bench just wanted to come out and just try to make up as much as we could, be aggressive, and try to make plays.”

Hayward, for one, was not surprised by the performance.

“The nice thing about our team is we have a lot of talent, a lot of guys that can pick up the slack, so that’s definitely a plus,” Hayward said. “I’m happy to see us playing well. I think we were playing our best basketball heading into this, so hopefully we can continue that.”

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at Follow him @adamhimmelsbach.