stan grossfeld/globe staff
WALTHAM — Crutches aside, Gordon Hayward sits on a comfy chair with a boot cast on his left leg and a lumbar support cushion behind his back. When the injured Celtics forward launches his shot from just inside the foul line, his legs sway ever so slightly.
Swish. Repeat. Swish.
Hayward suffered a fracture dislocation of his ankle in the first quarter of his first game as a Celtic, a gruesome injury that had players and fans cringing.
Although his ultimate goal is to help the Celtics win another world championship, his current goal is to make 100 baskets from the chair before he misses 20 times.
“The first time we tried it, the results were not good,” he said, flashing a smile. “I didn’t make it. But the second time we did it, I made it. Third time we did it, I made it. So I’m getting better.”
But it is tedious. Does he pretend it’s the NBA Finals and the score is tied?
“I’m sitting down and trying to make the shot,” he said. “That’s all I’m thinking about.”
Hayward has done his shooting drill in the empty gym without fanfare or sometimes even lights. But this day is different. He has a future Hall of Famer to serve as his ball boy.
Paul Pierce rebounds for him and at the same time interviews him for ESPN.
The Truth got the truth from Hayward, who told him, “The hardest part of rehab is the mental part. As a basketball player, you get that feeling, ‘I just want to go hoop’ — and you can’t.”
Pierce, whose number will be raised to the Garden rafters in February, tells Hayward that he believes he will be “a very big part” part of a Celtics team that wins a world championship.
Hayward likes the way his team (10 straight wins) is currently performing, especially on defense.
“They’ve got multiple guys who can do multiple things,” he said.
Pierce wants to try a shot from Hayward’s seat.
“It’s harder than you think,” Hayward said.
Pierce, who was Finals MVP when the Celtics won in 2008, hangs up his sports coat, sits down, and air-balls his first shot. He tells Hayward it was because of his form-fitting dress shirt.
“You got the practice shirt on,” he said. “Who shoots jumpers in a collared shirt? Maybe at Google.”
Brian Scalabrine, the former Celtic and current NBCSB analyst, is next. He playfully challenges Hayward to a shooting contest: first player to make 10 baskets from his seat is the winner.
“My money is on Gordon,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
Even Scalabrine would not predict victory.
“Hell no,” he said. “He’s been practicing eight days straight.”
Hayward wowed his teammates earlier in the week when he swished a nearly half-court shot from his chair and posted the video on Instagram.
“It’s a tough shot,” he said later. “After we’re done with the workout, we got a little competition going. We get five chances to see if we can hit it. I hit it once.”
But he was quick to add that there were others. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge — a former Toronto Blue Jay — fired up a baseball pass.
“Danny hit it, and so did Jaylen [Brown],” said Hayward.
In the current side-by-side competition, Hayward dominates while Scalabrine channels his inner Harpo Marx and kicks over his folding chair, claiming it was shorter than his opponent’s.
Hayward is all smiles. He has been smothered in well wishes since hurting himself Oct. 17. Before practice, a signed copy of Tom Brady’s new book arrived. He has been flooded with tweets, including one from former President Obama.
“That’s pretty cool,” he said. “Just words of support and encouragement.”
Meanwhile, Hayward steadfastly works on his game, albeit from the seated height of about 4 feet and not his usual 6 feet 8 inches. He has sat in his chair and made leading passes to teammates attacking the rim. He has practiced putting spin on layups that kiss off the glass.
“I’ve got a lot of time on my hands,” he said.
Watching the games on television has been difficult.
“It’s definitely very tough to watch, especially the first couple of weeks when I was out, because you just wish you could be out there playing,” he said. “I envisioned myself all summer playing with the Celtics, and to see them playing and not being a part of it is definitely tough.
“Now I’m trying to move past that and just rooting on my team, supporting them, offering words of wisdom before the game and after the game, trying to keep their spirits up.”
He is trying desperately to be a glass-half-full guy. Things are getting better. He has started working with weights, with the exception of his injured foot, which is still non-weight-bearing.
“I think the best thing that has come out of this is probably I’ll be a lot more mentally tough,” he said. “That’s the biggest challenge — to stay sharp mentally and get through this.”
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