BOSTON -- Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward, rehabbing from the fractured left ankle that he suffered on opening night, has started some light spot shooting and even got thrown into a pressure situation at a recent practice.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens called on Hayward to attempt a free throw at the end of a recent off-day workout to determine if the team would engage in a final drill. Hayward made the free throw, shortening the session for his teammates.
“[Hayward has] been doing his consistent workouts,” Stevens said Tuesday before the Celtics' game against the New Orleans Pelicans. "He’s consistently got his routine with regard to his rehab. He’s doing some spot shooting. Very, very light.
"The other day I had him shoot a free throw in practice to determine whether we’d do the last drill or not. And he made it, so we didn’t do it. He’s doing all that he can right now.”
Considering how Celtics fans got overly excited when general manager Danny Ainge tweeted a picture of Hayward without his ankle brace on last week, Stevens was quick to add, "We all know it’s a long road ahead.”
The Celtics have stressed they don’t expect Hayward back this season, but Stevens has said that the team will not put limitations on what Hayward tries to do. Every milestone is greeted with increased speculation about whether Hayward could return this season.
Hayward has said he’s taking his rehab day by day and will evaluate his progress further out. Wednesday will mark three months since the gruesome injury in the opening minutes of Boston’s first game of the season, a loss in Cleveland.
The Celtics were awarded an $8.4 million disabled player exception that must be used by March 12. Even if the team uses the exception to add a player, Hayward would be eligible to return should he regain full health before the end of the season.
Hayward and Stevens went to Providence, Rhode Island, together on Monday afternoon to watch the Butler men’s basketball team in action.
Stevens admitted that Hayward drew far more fanfare while the two were seated near each other for the game. Stevens simply enjoyed being able to root for his favorite college team. Stevens was Butler's head coach from 2007 to 2013, while Hayward played there from 2008 to 2010.
"I find myself a little bit more emotionally engaged, probably, as far as, like, riding the highs and lows of the game,” Stevens said. "And I love sitting and being around it. One of these days, that’ll be my seat. And I will thoroughly enjoy it.
"I really enjoy being at games as a fan. It’s one of the things I think when you get into coaching that you miss about the sport. As you’re going through and watching NBA League Pass every night, you’re looking at it from a tactical standpoint instead of an enjoyment standpoint. It is fun to sit back and really be a fan.
"One of the things I’ve enjoyed about making the transition from college to the pros is that I can just be a fan. [Butler is] in a great place. [Monday] was a tough game” -- Providence won 70-60 -- "but I love the way they’re playing. I love their coach. I look forward to great things come March again.”