Storyline: Gordon Hayward Injury

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The four week return would be much earlier than the initial six week prognosis, which is partly because of quick healing, and partly by design. “I think as it’s steadily improving and can do more and more, you start to think coming back a little bit earlier,” Hayward said. “I think you set the timeline a little bit later than what you’re hoping for just so that you guys and everyone else isn’t like, ‘If you’re late like, what’s the deal?’”

Hayward added that he expects to be dealing with effects from the injury throughout the season. “It’s definitely something where, hopefully not the rest of the season, but certainly a lengthy part of the season, I’m going to have to continue to get treatment, continue to ice it and kind of manage some of the symptoms,” Hayward said. “I don’t want it to get hit again, but I’m sure it will get hit again, and when that happens it’ll be sore. So I’ll manage that. But it’ll be something I deal with for the rest of the year.”

The initial Celtics timetable had Hayward projected to return six weeks after the surgery just ahead of Christmas and there has been no adjustment to that plan as of now. “It’s still hard to say exactly,” Hayward admitted when asked about a return plan. “But we have some good days here at home where I can practice and really do the things I want to do and kind of feel it out and see how it responds. I did a lot on it today, so I think it’s going to be more sore. It might swell up, so hopefully as soon as I’m done here go ice it and get some of the swelling down and kind of just take it day by day.”

On Tuesday, Hayward practiced with the team — stepping aside for live run to be an official, according to Brad Stevens — but he did something resembling contact drills with Celtics coaches. “I played a little kind of like hybrid contact today with coaches and stuff,” Hayward told reporters. “It’s definitely sore and I think that’s something I’ve got to work through. I’ve got to work through that to make my hand stronger, and hopefully over the next couple of days I can do that and get it kind of more the same strength of my right hand. I think it’s going to be a little while, and plus I was right-hand dominant anyway. So it’s definitely going to probably not be the exact same, but get it more strengthened so the percentage is closer to my right.”

“It’s a drop in a bucket, for sure,” said Hayward, meeting with reporters before Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards. “Like I said, happy that it shouldn’t be that long. Obviously frustrated — it sucks watching and not being able to go out there and play, especially with the start that we’ve had. I think this time around, I’ll be able to run around, use my legs still, maintain my conditioning, which I’m very thrilled about and then be around the team, too. And kinda stay involved, which is good.”

Hayward said surgeons inserted both a pin and a plate at the fracture to both stabilize and expedite the recovery process. He will not travel at the start of Boston’s upcoming five-game trip out west and will have a follow-up with the hand surgeon in New York while waiting for clearance to travel. Hayward appeared in good spirits despite the injury. His splint is already covered in drawings from his two oldest daughters, Charlotte and Bernadette. Despite his advice on color choices, he maintained a “Daddy’s Always Happy” face when detailing what his daughters sketched.

Hayward has in fact been playing for the Celtics all season. But there’s a difference between being back and being back. And that difference, more than anything else, explains why the Celtics enter Saturday’s game mired in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, having so far failed to live up to their lofty preseason expectations. “I think with each month I feel more comfortable,” Hayward told ESPN last week. “Sometimes, I need to remind myself it’s good to even be out there, and to try to find the joy in just playing, [and] not get frustrated if things aren’t going exactly how I want them to.”

Hayward still believes he can lift his game to a new level. He still aims to deliver titles and maximize his individual potential, but when he speaks about what he ultimately wants to accomplish, he lists skills rather than accolades. He wants to sharpen his decision-making in pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs. He believes he can see the floor better, inflict more punishment on smaller defenders, and take advantage of all the space the Celtics’ style should afford. Hayward wants to avoid focusing on All-Star berths. This season, after all the anguish, and monotonous rehab, Hayward’s priority is to stay on the court. “Get through this year healthy,” he said of his priorities during a phone interview this week.
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That will hinge on a couple of primary factors: which treatment option Simmons decides on, and how his body responds to the treatment. While Simmons’ general durability and recovery from a recent back injury are encouraging factors, it’s hard to say what the timetable looks like until the specifics are hammered down. Surgery is usually not recommended for first-time injuries of this nature, but even conservative treatment plans can last in the neighborhood of six weeks.
Storyline: Ben Simmons Injury
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