BOSTON (CBS) — Gordon Hayward is ready to play some basketball for the Boston Celtics.
It’s been just under a year since the All-Star forward suffered a gruesome ankle injury on opening night, ending his first season in Boston just five minutes into his Celtics career. Hayward has cataloged the progress of his rehab throughout the last 11 months, but on Thursday, he happily stood in front of the Boston media to chat about his road back.
Hayward has been playing full court five-on-five for the last two weeks, and so far, has not shown any hesitated or had any fear about jumping or cutting on the floor. In his mind, there is only has one hurdle left in his recovery.
“I would say I’m basically 100 percent. There are certain things that are going to take time, even if I was 100 percent healthy. I’m not 100 percent basketball-wise because I haven’t played in a year,” said Hayward. “The last step for me as far as a physical standpoint is that little explosion, the last bounce of juice you get. But for the most part, I feel really good.”
Hayward hopes to take those last few steps during training camp, which gets underway on Sept. 26. He’ll use that time to get back into game shape and re-acclimate with the Celtics system, and says that practice time and Boston’s four preseason games are the best way for him to get back into shape. He fully expects to be on the floor when the Celtics tip off the 2018-19 season against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Whether he’ll be in the starting five or not is up to C’s head coach Brad Stevens. But Hayward isn’t too concerned about when he’ll first see the floor.
“We have so much depth and so much talent, it doesn’t matter who starts to me. My goal is to help us get that banner,” he said.
Hayward is just happy to be back on the floor, and is eager to finally score some points for the team that gave him a four-year, $128-million contract last summer. He said the mental part of his recovery was the most difficult part of the process.
“To sit and watch, not be with the team and just do rehab every day, it was really difficult for me. The hardest part of the whole process was the mental challenge; the tedious task of just the rehab,” he said. “It’s something I just hope I don’t have to go through again.”
But Hayward got through it all because of his family, fans, and teammates. He praised the Celtics coaching staff for helping him every step of the way, and said he received lots of mail from fans, many of whom were also recovering from leg injuries. He said that gave him some added perspective to his own comeback.
But Hayward said the visits from his teammates were some of the most uplifting moments of the ordeal. He singled out Aron Baynes, who made a special delivery of Krispy Kreme donuts to the Hayward household following a road trip. Donuts, as Hawyard explained, are his cheat food.
“Simple things like that meant a lot to me and my family too,” he said.
As for the play that ended his first season with the Celtics just five minutes in, Hayward still has not watched it. He’s seen images on social media, but has no intentions of checking out any replays.
“I’m moving forward, moving passed it,” he said.