BOSTON (CBS) — After missing all but five minutes last season, Gordon Hayward will make his triumphant return to the Celtics on opening night.
But don’t expect to see the forward putting in a full night’s work. At least not yet.
It should come as no surprise that the Celtics are going to ease Hayward back after his year of rehab. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters Monday afternoon that Hayward will play roughly 25 minutes per game for the first couple of weeks of the season.
Hayward’s rehab from last year’s devastating and gruesome ankle injury on opening night has been well documented, but it’s not the only injury he’s coming back from. The forward also battled a bad back during the preseason, missing Boston’s final exhibition game on Oct. 6. Hayward appeared rusty in his 59 minutes of preseason action, hitting just five of his 20 shots from the floor.
But that was to be expected from a player who missed almost an entire season. In a recent chat with WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton, Hayward said he’s feeling good and is excited to finally get a chance to show what he can do in a Celtics uniform.
“My [left] leg is strong, probably stronger than my right leg because I focused so much time and effort on that one leg. The other parts of my body have to catch up because they were dormant for so long,” Hayward explained. “I’m feeling confident and ready to get back on the court. I’m ready to play at the Garden in front of our fans. It’s going to be all smiles from me [Tuesday night].”
It’s going to take time for Hayward to return to form, and the Celtics are not going to rush that process.
The Celtics will tip off the 2018-19 NBA regular season Tuesday night at TD Garden, hosting the Philadelphia 76ers in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.