BOSTON (CBS) — Gordon Hayward underwent successful surgery last week following his devastating ankle injury on opening night, and now begins the long rehab process.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had to cancel his first appearance of the season with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand last Wednesday because he was with Hayward at the hospital, and just a few days ago he made sure his former college player had the one thing he wanted most: A basketball.
Stevens joined Zolak & Bertrand on Wednesday to give a quick update on the injured all-star, and while there have been some emotional times, Hayward’s attitude remains pretty upbeat.
“The hardest part, obviously beyond the physical extent of the injury, is the realization that all the work that you put in as an individual to get ready for the season, the excitement and anticipation he has moving to Boston, playing for this team and this city, to really have it taken away in the first six minutes is really, really hard. So there’s not just a lot of work from a rehab standpoint, but emotionally, it’s tough,” said Stevens.
“He is making good progress from the surgery. I think he certainly has his moments where he’s down but his attitude is great,” he added. “He’s looking forward to hitting this rehab as hard as he can.”
Stevens said he checks in with Hayward daily, whether it’s in-person or via text message. The coach expects Hayward to start making appearances at the team’s practice facilities when the Celtics return from their quick two-game road trip this weekend.
Hayward’s injury is likely season-ending, a huge hit to Boston’s plans for the 2017-18 campaign. But if there’s any bright side, it’s that it has given Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum more responsibility. The two have answered the call and been two of Boston’s best scorers.
While Celtics fans and the media praises the youngsters, Stevens has to be the one to hit them with the reality of the situation. He is pleased with their production, but points to their open opportunities because of double teams that Kyrie Irving is getting or Al Horford’s play in his pick and rolls, things that may not show up in the box score on a nightly basis.
“We’re all inner-dependent on one another. Those guys are doing a lot of good things and we need them to continue to do it,” said Stevens. “The reality is we’re young, and the other reality is we’re not going to talk about it in here. We need to focus on what we can do to impact an NBA game.”
Stevens praised the leadership of Horford, who at 31 is the oldest player on the Celtics roster.
“I don’t think there’s any question that his voice carries a ton of weight. What I most appreciate about Al is every time he speaks it’s worth listening to,” Stevens said of his veteran forward. “He doesn’t mince words. When he stops a film session, everyone is all ears. When he talks on the court everyone is all ears. He’s a guy young players should follow.”
Listen to Stevens’ full interview with Zolak & Bertrand in the podcast above, including some expanded thoughts on the Kyrie Irving incident in Philadelphia last Friday night.