Anticipating Gordon Hayward’s return has been a continuing subplot of the Celtics’ season ever since the prized offseason signing suffered a fractured tibia and dislocated ankle only minutes into opening night in October.
The latest prognosis, coming from Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, continues to take a conservative view of Hayward’s possible return. A surprise comeback for the team’s playoff run remains a long shot.
“I don’t believe that Gordon thinks he’s going to play,” Ainge said in an interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Thursday. The comments come only days after Celtics coach Brad Stevens definitively stated that Hayward isn’t returning this season.
When asked about a recent video from Hayward showing his rehab, Ainge explained that it’s just part of the process.
“I think that Gordon just wants to show everyone when he comes back next year all the work that he put in to get back to who he was when he got here, or an even better player than he was when he got hurt,” Ainge said.
Ainge shared some details of Hayward’s progress.
“He’s not even full weight-bearing on his foot, doing anything yet,” Ainge noted. “He is on the AlterG (Anti-Gravity Treadmill), which is half his body weight, maybe up to 60 percent of his body weight. There’s just a long way to go before he can get out on a basketball court. And then once he’s 100 percent cleared physically, which he’s not close to that yet, there’s a long process of just getting your mind and your confidence, and your foot [right]. And overcoming the mental part of it.”
Not everyone is convinced by the Celtics’ repeated denials of Hayward’s return this season.
“I think he is working out with the idea that he can be ready by the end of the season,” longtime play-by-play commentator Mike Gorman recently said. “Whether they want to activate him, whether they want to play him or not, that’s a whole different question. But I truly believe that before the playoffs are over, we’ll see him in a Celtics uniform. I just believe it.”
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