The long-awaited return of All-Star Gordon Hayward is expected to occur Friday, when the Boston Celtics forward plans to play in the preseason opener on the road against the Charlotte Hornets.
According to multiple media outlets, Hayward is ready for his first game action since he dislocated his left ankle and fractured his left tibia in a gruesome ending to his Celtics debut during the 2017-18 season opener.
The 6-foot-8 Hayward, who played seven previous seasons with the Utah Jazz, recently said he’s “basically 100 percent.” On Tuesday, he told reporters that he has dunked off his left foot in practice.
“I’m just excited to be out there,” Hayward, 28, told reporters earlier in September. “It’s been so much fun to be able to play again and play with my teammates. These past few weeks and the next probably month or so will be good to get back into the game.”
According to a report on Celtics.com, Hayward’s teammates seemed amazed by his progression, giving him a thumbs-up during media day on Monday.
“I’ve seen him working out over the last three weeks, since he’s been back in Boston, and he’s really looking good,” said second-year forward Daniel Theis, who sustained a torn meniscus last March. “When you get hurt and when you’ve been out for such a long time, you’ve got to get back the feeling for playing five-on-five, and I think the hardest challenge for him is going to be the mental part, just going in there, playing with contact again.
“But when we played our pickup games, he looked good. He was moving really well, he was shooting the ball really well, so I think for everybody, it’s going to be fun to see him out there.”
Added second-year forward Semi Ojeleye: “If you didn’t know what happened, you wouldn’t have guessed that he had that kind of injury. The way he looks now is great. I think he’s growing more confident every day with what he can do on the court, and he’s getting back to that form that we saw before he became a Celtic.”
The Celtics open the regular season against the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 16.
“There’s nothing like playing basketball,” the 28-year-old Hayward told the media on Monday. “There’s nothing like doing in-game stuff that you can’t get from drills. You’re guarding somebody, you’re reacting, you’re getting a rebound and trying to go straight back up with it. Those things I can’t really practice, so to have the ability to do that was really big for me.”
–Field Level Media