Storyline: Gordon Hayward Injury

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Gordon Hayward: I know everybody is curious about where things stand with my rehab. It’s all been going really well. I’m happy to report I’m feeling like an athlete again. I’ve been in Indianapolis for the last couple weeks making some really good progress. I leave the hotel every morning at about 9:30 am and don’t get back til about 6 pm. We do a lot of running mechanics, physical therapy, a lift of some sort, and then court work for another few hours. It’s a full day, every day. I’m definitely moving along as planned, and progressing really well.

Gordon Hayward: Unfortunately, the training room has become a lot more crowded over the last few weeks. It seems like one thing after another with injuries these days. Even in the same game, you have Marcus Smart tear a tendon in his thumb and had to get surgery, and that same night, Daniel Theis hurts his knee and he is done for the year. That was unreal. Then you have Jaylen take that scary fall that cost him a couple weeks with the concussion, and now Kyrie needs surgery to clean out his knee.

When asked by Celtics Wire if he’s kept in touch with Hayward, George explained how he tried to help set him up for success and watched him take off. “Yeah, I’ve been in touch with him. I’ve been in touch with him, texting and kind of been watching him from afar, how he’s been progressing. Early on, I was around him more so, sending him messages and talking to him. At this point, it looked like he’s doing really well, just watching him on the court.

George explained how he went through the exact same thing and how he helped Hayward prepare for the massive mental hurdles that are tossed in his way. “That’s one of the biggest things I told him, cause I knew it was going to be frustrating,” George said. “Where you feel like you’re getting better, you’re about to turn that corner and then you’re going to have some setbacks. That’s part of doing so well, putting so much stress on it, that sometimes it’s going to get sore, sometimes it’s going to feel like you shouldn’t have did something. It’s all part of the process.”

“You know what? Sometimes I talk too much,” said Ainge. “‘Setback’ wasn’t the right word, so let me rephrase that because it’s not exactly true to say it — or say it that way. What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness. It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn’t ready for it at that point. That’s all it was. So I think ‘setback’ is the wrong way to put it. I mis-phrased that.”

“I’m not sure what the right word is, but he wasn’t ready for that. So we waited a couple of weeks before we started that again, and since we started that again it’s been great and he’s progressed along on the AlterG. That’s all. It wasn’t like he had an accident or anything like that. I used the word ‘setback,’ and it became a headline. Like, ‘Oh, setback.’ It got blown out of proportion. It’s my fault. I’m not blaming anybody. ‘Setback’ was probably too strong of a word.”
2 months ago via ESPN

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.”
3 months ago via ESPN

Ramona Shelbourne: I texted some Boston people and everyone who I would be in touch with and ask about it was like, ‘[Gordon Hayward] is not coming back. We wouldn’t do that to him, his career is way too important.’ I know what [Jeff Van Gundy] was saying by calling baloney on all that when he was like, ‘If [Boston] gets to the Finals, [Hayward] is gonna come back and do a Willis Reed.’ All I can tell you is, everyone in Boston that I’ve talked to seems to be saying there’s just no chance they would let him do that or put him in that position.

Gordon Hayward: Every morning is basically the same. Massage work. Balance work. Lift. Low Load circuit. Conditioning. Stuff on the court. Four or five hours go by. It’s pretty monotonous, and it’s not fun. I’m just trying to get through it. The biggest change is that I’ve been out of the brace for a couple weeks now, and everything is feeling pretty good. It definitely feels good to walk around the house without the brace. The act of walking finally feels normal. That’s really nice. Some of the balancing activities that I’m doing now are kind of an upgrade from the balance activities I was doing before. I’m able to do it for longer periods of time. I’m able to do calf raises for more reps and some weight, like wearing a weight vest. And I am slowly progressing with the AlterG.

Gordon Hayward: On a basketball court, I’m still limited to doing things where I’m basically standing still and then taking maybe one step. Everything is flat-footed. So I can do a dribble pull-up, and though I don’t jump in the air, I still do the dribble and the step. On finishes around the rim, I can do a step and finish, but staying on the ground. That’s kind of where I’m at right now. I’m doing all dribbling drills and passing drills, but just stationary, or slowly walking across the court. I can’t really jump or do any big-time movements like that.

Gordon Hayward: It’s been a few weeks since my last blog entry. I’m deep in the rehab process now, just grinding. Every morning is basically the same. Massage work. Balance work. Lift. Low Load circuit. Conditioning. Stuff on the court. Four or five hours go by. It’s pretty monotonous, and it’s not fun. I’m just trying to get through it. The biggest change is that I’ve been out of the brace for a couple weeks now, and everything is feeling pretty good. It definitely feels good to walk around the house without the brace. The act of walking finally feels normal. That’s really nice.

Gordon Hayward: On a basketball court, I’m still limited to doing things where I’m basically standing still and then taking maybe one step. Everything is flat-footed. So I can do a dribble pull-up, and though I don’t jump in the air, I still do the dribble and the step. On finishes around the rim, I can do a step and finish, but staying on the ground. That’s kind of where I’m at right now. I’m doing all dribbling drills and passing drills, but just stationary, or slowly walking across the court. I can’t really jump or do any big-time movements like that.

Russell played on 11 of the Celtics’ 17 NBA championship teams. Brown, on a Celtics squad that overcame the loss of All-Star newcomer Gordon Hayward to own the East’s best record, believes this team has the talent to make a run at accomplishing this year what Russell did 11 times. “I’m not surprised at all. Not one bit,” Brown said of the Celtics play sans Hayward. “I think we have a lot of talent. I don’t know if people see it that way. But we have a very talented group with a lot of young guys that can really play. With a good coaching scheme and a balance, I think that’s why we are doing so well. Everybody stepped up.”

Gordon Hayward couldn’t get the image out of his head. Lying in bed at night, the All-Star would close his eyes and try to lull his mind to sleep, but he would see it anyway: his left foot gruesomely bent sideways, the wrong way. Most nightmares are figments of the brain’s imagination. But for Hayward, this horror story was real. “You lay awake, you can’t fall asleep,” Hayward tells B/R Mag, looking back at the first sleepless nights following his traumatic injury in the Boston Celtics’ season opener.

Livingston still sees it. Over a decade has gone by since a 21-year-old Livingston landed awkwardly on his left leg during a game against the Charlotte Bobcats, dislocating his kneecap and rupturing just about every tendon in the knee joint. But even after his two championship runs with the Golden State Warriors, the daily reminders won’t let him forget that image of his deformed knee. But injuries like Hayward’s often rip open an emotional wound. Seconds after Hayward went down, Livingston’s phone inevitably blew up with the news and photos of the injury. But the Golden State guard couldn’t bring himself to watch the clip. “I don’t watch those plays anymore,” Livingston told B/R Mag. “The eyes are the windows into the soul. It’s just a mental standpoint about not putting that stuff into your head.”

“The unfortunate part of it is the reality that [the Celtics] have got to keep playing,” Livingston says of Hayward’s situation. “The league still has games. Contracts are still in order. It’s just part of it. The sooner that you accept that reality, the easier it is to attack the rehab.” There were days when Livingston didn’t want to get out of bed. Wanted to take the day off. But his friend Art Jones knocked on his door every morning and didn’t stop pounding until Livingston got up. “Gordon Hayward can overcome it,” Shaun Livingston says. “He can get back to the same player he was with the right team around him—which I know he’ll have—and the right mindset. There’s definitely no stopping him. This won’t stop him. I know he’s going to get through it. But my line is open.”

Seconds after watching Gordon Hayward’s injury, George fought off the nausea, grabbed his phone and texted his former Team USA teammate. They talked later that night on the phone. George emphasized the mental side during his constant texting to Hayward. Paul George’s message: It’s OK to feel down. “With the nature of the injury, there’s going to be rough days and good days,” George says. “Some days, I felt really good and I felt like I was ready to turn that corner. And then right after that, next day, I felt like I was back at square one. There was pain in the leg again. It was hard to walk, hard to move. It felt like I wasn’t progressing like the previous day. That was the rough patch mentally.”

Tatum and Brown could not replicate Hayward’s ball-handling, so coaches installed more post actions for them. The next night, the Celtics won at Philadelphia, in front of a hysterical crowd. And then a strange thing happened to the contender that supposedly dropped from contention. They didn’t lose again for a month, coming back from 18 points down at Oklahoma City, 13 down in the fourth quarter at Dallas and 12 down in the fourth without Irving against Charlotte. “I think Gordon’s injury made us closer,” says guard Terry Rozier. They were a blast to behold, for everyone but the person who brought them together.

No one expects Hayward to return this spring, but no one completely shuts the door. It’s cracked, because who knows how far Boston will advance and how fast Hayward will mend. In 2006, 76ers forward Shavlik Randolph was practicing four months after a broken ankle, though he wasn’t at full strength for about a year. “I was terrified when it happened that I wouldn’t be able to ever play again because it hurt and looked so bad,” Randolph texted from China, where he is with the Beikong Fly Dragons. “But it did not affect me long-term…. It will be just a matter of how long it takes to get his strength and mobility back. Different people get that back at different rates, but he is an elite athlete with a terrific work ethic, so I don’t see any reason why he doesn’t get all of it back relatively quickly.”

Hayward appreciates any optimism, but he is reluctant to entertain it, not when he is finally sleeping again. “Wishing to be on the court, trying to be on the court, those are the thoughts that kept me up at night,” he says. Cobbs and Randolph cannot relate to the attention focused on Hayward’s ankle, now protected by a small black brace. According to Google, the most-searched athlete in the United States in 2017 has been Floyd Mayweather. Second is Gordon Hayward. He does not venture out in public often, staying home with Robyn and their daughters, two-year-old Bernie and one-year-old Charlie. The family’s German shepherd, Siber, patrols a backyard ringed with pine trees. But Hayward visited two Boston children’s hospitals this month, and as he sat at bedsides and listened to stories, he felt the patients were doing more for him than he was for them. “Man,” he thought, “I’ve got it made. I just broke my ankle. That’s nothing.”

Gordon Hayward: I’m making progress in therapy as well. I’ve been going into the facility every day, and working with the trainers there on a lot of different things. We start with massage therapy and soft tissue work on my whole leg, foot, and ankle, trying to get some of the swelling out. After that, I do some manual resistance stuff, leg extensions, leg curls and that type of thing. The goal there is to achieve better range of motion, and maintain strength in my hips, and my calf, and quad. Next, I do some balance work. Originally I was just balancing on my right foot, but we’ve made progress to the point I’m now able to balance on two feet. The next step is going to be balancing on my left foot. I’m also doing work with that foot to gain strength and range of motion, things like towel scrunches and marble pickups, where you pick the marbles up with your toes and put them into a box.

It’s Gordon Hayward injury update week here on Celtics Wire, with the man himself joining the Dan Patrick Show to dive into his mentality surrounding his recovery from a broken ankle. Do you need to wait until you feel mentally the same as you did before the injury? Gordon Hayward: “That’s 100% true. The play that we ran there, I’ve done that play maybe 60-70 times next year. I think when I’ll be 100% is when I’m able to run that exact same play and not think about it twice. That’s another hurdle at the end there where I may be physically 100-percent, but I have to be mentally there as well.”

How realistic is getting back or is it just a mindset to prepare for this year? Gordon Hayward: “I work out every day to try to increase my range of motion and increase my strength in my legs so that I can be back as fast as I can. Whether that’s this year or this summer or next year, I will just let that happen. But for sure, as a competitor, I’m just trying to come back faster than anyone has ever done it. They keep me to a pretty strict protocol, so that’s just what I do.”

In an interview with Sirius XM’s Justin Termine and Eddie Johnson, the Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations discussed how Hayward is working to pick up where he left off at some point in the future. The answer as to when that may happen is still as opaque as it was a few months ago. “I don’t even want to go there. I’m not sure. That’s just all speculation,” Ainge said when asked if he could just come back in the postseason if he’s healthy. “Gordon – he didn’t rule it out – but we’re all just sort of are not putting any pressure. We’re just letting the course take itself and we’ll see what happens. But he’s coming along quickly.”

More than 50 days have passed since Hayward suffered his grisly injury, and on this night there are few obvious signs that it happened at all. His cast was replaced by a walking boot after two weeks, and now the walking boot is gradually being phased out in favor of a small, nonintrusive brace, which he is wearing now. Last week, he was told he did not need crutches anymore. On the court, he can now stand still and shoot baskets, a major step after weeks of firing them from a padded chair. As the Celtics stormed to a 22-5 start, it became tantalizing to wonder what they might be with Hayward. And given his consistent progress, and the fact that more than four months remain in the regular season, it is impossible not to wonder if there is a chance, however slim it might be, that he could be back this year.

Hayward admits that he thinks about it, too. But he immediately cautions that there can be dangers in looking far ahead. He has made this progress by tackling obstacles one by one, and he knows the last, most massive one remains distant. But yes, of course he is aware of it. Of course he would like to play for the Celtics this season. “It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” Hayward said. “I’m definitely pushing to get back as fast as I can, while making sure that I still have a lot of good years of basketball in me. And coming back early and hurting something else is not part of that plan. So I’m making sure that if I come back, I’m one-thousand percent confident in myself and my leg. I hope more than anything I can play this season. That would be awesome. But that’s not something I’m stressing about. I’m stressing about what I can do today to help myself get better.”

His return date, of course, remains unclear. The Celtics have been cautious, consistently saying they do not expect Hayward back this season. Hayward does not expect it, either. He does not like to think that far ahead. But he is also an undeniably fierce competitor, and there is no better motivator at the end of this long, trying journey than playing in an NBA game again. “I feel like for me it’s better to just tell myself, ‘Let’s be better today than I was yesterday,’ and then keep doing that day in and day out,” Hayward said. “And if it happens to get to the point where the season’s still going on and I can play, then, like, that’s awesome.”
5 months ago via ESPN

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday that Gordon Hayward soon will shed his walking boot as he navigates the early stages of rehab from a fractured left ankle suffered in Boston’s season opener in Cleveland. Hayward’s wife, Robyn, posted a video of a bootless Hayward on Instagram on Wednesday, sparking chatter about Hayward’s progress. During his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub, Ainge said Hayward is “right on schedule,” though neither Hayward nor the Celtics have offered a timetable for his return to basketball activities and both have said he doesn’t expect to play again this season.

“There’s going to be days where he feels it’s not getting better or things aren’t going right. Just embrace those. That’s how I had to do it. That’s what mentors told me. As much as there’s going to be good days, the bad ones are going to come with it, and you just have to be prepared for those. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t be down on yourself. It’s part of the rehab stage. “And I just told him don’t get tired with the work. It’s tedious work, but it’s to build toward being better. So hopefully my words carried a little more weight by myself going through that. But we’re all wishing and praying for him.”
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May 20, 2018 | 6:58 pm EDT Update