BOSTON (CBS) — Gordon Hayward was back on the practice floor for the Celtics on Sunday, though he didn’t do too much. He did a bit more on Monday as he progresses towards a return.
Brad Stevens still won’t put a timetable on Hayward’s return, but it seems like he’ll will be back in the team’s lineup sometime during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat.
Hayward did some light, non-contact drills on Sunday, and on Monday, he went through a hard workout after the rest of the team practiced, according to Stevens.
“He went through a hard, half-workout with a small group workout after practice. He looked good going through it,” Stevens said Monday. “But there is a big difference between that and going through a game. But he’s getting better.”
It has been nearly a month since Hayward suffered a Grade III ankle sprain in Boston’s first game of the playoffs, and he should be back at some point as the Celtics take on the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. The C’s forward has missed 10 playoff games since suffering the sprain on Aug. 17. Monday is the four-week mark, which is roughly the timetable that the team placed on Hayward when he was diagnosed.
Boston could certainly use him back in the lineup against the Heat, a team that plays a lot of zone defense. He’d force the Heat to guard beef up their perimeter defense, which will already have its hands full with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker. Hayward’s return would also give Boston another playmaker, and would certainly help the Celtics bench production if he doesn’t return to the starting lineup.
Hayward scored 15 points and pulled down seven rebounds over 36 minutes in Boston’s seeding-game loss to the Heat on Aug. 4, and had a game-high 29 points in a Celtics win in Miami in late January. He shot 56 percent in his two games against the Heat, though he went just 1-for-7 from three-point range. He got to the free-throw line 16 times in his two games against the Heat.
Chances are Stevens will opt to keep Marcus Smart in the starting lineup when Hayward returns. The Boston-Miami Eastern Conference Finals will tip off Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.