Good news for the Boston Celtics, as star small forward Gordon Hayward stated that he has not yet ruled out playing this season. During the first game of the NBA season, Hayward was involved in a mid-air collision which resulted in him breaking his left ankle. His surgery the week after was a success, and Hayward is optimistic on the fact that he could come back for the Celtics during the playoffs.
Hayward has made significant steps in his recovery over the past month. He has just been cleared to walk around without a boot, and has moved down to just a soft brace for his rehab. This means Hayward will soon be able to put more weight on that ankle, and can start shooting free throws. And Hayward will definitely be taking full advantage of his ability to take free throws. Two weeks after his surgery, he was filmed at the Celtics practice facility shooting and making half-court shots from his wheelchair. He has proven that he still has his shot, now all he has to work on is his jumping, running, and explosivity, the latter of which was one of Hayward’s best traits pre-injury.
Hayward’s Celtics have been experiencing more success than experts predicted following the injury. Rookie Jayson Tatum has stepped into the starting lineup and has become one of the front-runners for the Rookie of the Year award. Tatum has been averaging 13.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, along with one steal per game as well. Marcus Morris, who the Celtics acquired from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Avery Bradley, has also been performing well in Hayward’s absence. Morris is averaging just over 12 points per game, above his career average of just under 11.
Given the nature of Hayward’s injury, it is unlikely that he would be able to play in the regular season. Previous injuries of a similar manner have kept players out for the entire season. However, the timing of Hayward’s injury may prove to be a blessing in disguise. Since he was hurt so early on in the season, he would be available in a limited role in time for the last few weeks of the regular season and the playoffs. This situation is similar to that of Paul George, who broke his leg in the summer of 2014. He was able to return from his injury to come off the bench for the last six games of the 2014-15 season, averaging nine points in his limited role. If Hayward can do the same, the Celtics would benefit from having one of the league’s best small forwards coming off the bench for them in certain clutch situations. However, only time will tell what happens with Hayward.
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