NBA Teams
Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer 378d

Gordon Hayward glad to be back with Celtics after injury

NBA, Boston Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward said it has been therapeutic to be back with his teammates after the gruesome ankle injury that's expected to sideline him for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. Simply engaging in light shooting from a chair on the practice court this week has helped rally his spirits.

"It's going to be really important for me and my mental health to stay involved and still be a part of the team as much as I can," Hayward said at a news conference Thursday.

Hayward fractured his ankle just five minutes into Boston's season opener last month in Cleveland.

He said it will help "as much as I can be out there on the court with them. I can be with them in the locker room and I can see different things watching the film that maybe they can't see out on the court and I can try to help them. Like I said, that will help me as well."

Hayward reaffirmed that there is no timetable for his recovery from surgery that repaired the fractured bone and damaged ligaments, but he wrote in a lengthy blog post Wednesday that he expects to miss the entire season. Hayward, who recently shifted from a hard cast to a walking boot, said he's hopeful he can sit on the bench at Celtics games once the medical staff gives him clearance later in the season.

Hayward, who signed with Boston after seven seasons with the Utah Jazz, started coming to the Celtics' practice facility this week for rehab exercises. He also was on the court to take shots from a chair.

"Shooting out of a chair is a little bit different than shooting standing up. It's pretty short," Hayward said. "But just to be out on the court with a basketball ... that was an incredible feeling, just to start that process. Just because, for two weeks or whatever, I was in a bed with my foot up the whole time. Those hours seem like they last forever because you're just sitting there and bored and can't do much.

"I do whatever I can with the basketball. That's what I love to do. That was fun. Looking forward to any chance to do that."

Hayward emphasized that while he has a grueling road ahead physically, with his rehab, he also has battled the mental strain of his injury. The outpouring of support, including from other athletes who have endured season-ending injuries, has helped him.

"I was obviously just devastated. I felt like I had put in so much work to get ready for this season," he said. "Made a pretty tough decision to come here to Boston to play, one that I still definitely don't regret by any means. But I wanted it to go differently for my first game as a Celtic. So just devastated, I guess, that I wouldn't be able to contribute, that I wouldn't be able to have the season I wanted to have.

"After that kind of settles, just overwhelmed with the amount of support that was shown, from all kinds of athletes across all kinds of sports. I think it shows the brotherhood that professional athletes have, just athletes in general. Then other celebrities, too, that reached out like you said. The former Mr. President [Barack Obama], I just couldn't believe that people were watching and that they cared enough to send a tweet. I'm sure they have better things [to do]. At the end of the day it's just a basketball injury and there's people are going through way, way worse, so for them to reach out was pretty cool. "

Hayward said he still has rough moments when he thinks about not being able to play this season, but he likes what he has seen from the Celtics, who have won six straight games after an 0-2 start and are currently tied with Orlando for the best record in the NBA.

"Daily, I still have negative thoughts. It's hard not to, especially when you watch the games," Hayward said. "It's something that I'm trying to work on. ... I think I wouldn't be human if I didn't have those thoughts.

"There are just definite positive things that I can take from this and there's definitely no reason to continue to sulk and wallow in some self-pity because it happened. You can't take it back, as much as I want to rewind it and go out the other way on the [play]. It's something that I'm going to have to deal with, so might as well deal with it now."

Hayward said he has been able to spend extra time with his two young daughters, Bernie and Charlie, and being off his feet means a chance to play some of his beloved video games. He also said it was therapeutic to simply write Wednesday's 3,600-word blog entry.

"I've written several blogs and this one was by far the longest one, in the time that it took for me to do it and the time it took to put into words exactly what I wanted to say and how I was feeling in describing the moment that it happened," Hayward said. "I think that was good to talk it out. I hadn't really talked about it until then and so, I guess sitting down and putting out my thoughts was really helpful for me. Now that it's out there, I can kind of move forward and continue with the rehab and the recovery."

Hayward wrote in his blog that Celtics coach Brad Stevens was adamant about being one of the people to help carry him onto the team plane after the injury in Cleveland. Stevens has been a consistent presence while making sure Hayward's spirits remain high in the aftermath of the injury.

"There was probably like 20 people [near the airplane], but Brad wanted to make sure he was one of the ones that helped carry me up the stairs. That's just the type of person that he is," Hayward said. "You guys have been around him enough to know. I went out to eat with him this morning. He's one of the big reasons why I came here and I've said that. ...

"He's a good human being and a great person. He wants to include me still and wants to make sure that I'm still a part of this team and I'm still helping the team, so he's going to have different things for me to do and different ways that I can help."

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