Gordon Hayward watches Celtics host Jazz, holds out hope for return this season

BOSTON -- Celtics forward Gordon Hayward visited TD Garden on Friday night to watch his former team play his current one, and he reaffirmed that a return this season is possible.

Hayward, who got out of his walking boot on Wednesday, less than two months after fracturing his left ankle in Boston's season opener in Cleveland, made only his second known appearance at TD Garden this season, with hopes of interacting with former teammates on the Utah Jazz.

Asked if there was any chance he could return this season, Hayward echoed what he said earlier this week by noting that he's not ruling it out.

"My mind is open to that," Hayward said of a possible return during this campaign. "I'm trying to get back as fast as I can. It all depends on how I heal. I'm taking it day by day, goal by goal. We'll see what happens."

Hayward signed a four-year, $128 million deal with the Celtics over the summer. Jazz fans -- and even Hayward's former teammates -- were left stung by his departure, particularly with the way the news leaked first through an ESPN report, before Hayward eventually confirmed it in a sprawling blog post.

Hayward was asked if he had any regrets about his departure.

"No, I don't regret anything," he said. "I, unfortunately, got injured, but happy to be here in Boston. Happy to be a part of this team."

Pressed on the process of making his decision, Hayward added, "It was a whirlwind experience. I don't know if I could do it any faster than what I did. Went across the country three times, paying for my own private flight to get there as fast as I could. Obviously, I've talked about it before, but disappointed with the leak and everything; but the decision hadn't been made at all until the decision was made, and that's that. That's how I feel about that."

Jazz players expressed sympathy for Hayward given the serious nature of his injury but otherwise didn't seem interested in focusing much on their former teammate.

"Gordon was a heck of a player, a great player for us," said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. "And I think everybody understands the decision that he made. So to see him get hurt, it was hard. We felt horrible for him. And I think most of the guys on our team reached out. I know I did. And I think he was appreciative of that. At this point, we wish him well in his rehab. Hopefully he's back soon.

"At the same time, our group's moved on too. So that's separate from Gordon's injury. I think with respect to his injury, everybody feels for him and wants him to be healthy. And at the same time, we're in a position with our team now where we're getting into the chunk of the season, the middle of the season, and we're focused on that too."

Hayward lamented not being able to play in Friday's game.

"Makes it harder for me; I wish I was out there," Hayward said. "Makes it harder just to sit back and watch. This is a game I had circled; I know they did. And in front of now my home crowd, it would have been a lot of fun. I'm just going to watch and, like I said, I'll see those guys afterwards."

Hayward said he had planned to start coming to more home games once he was out of his boot. That the Jazz were the opponent on the first game after ditching the protective boot was simply "happenstance."

Without the boot, Hayward can set new goals.

"I'm able to do a lot more stuff, rehab-wise, like standing up," Hayward said. "I don't have to shoot in a chair any more. Slowly but surely, I'll keep adding to that. Right now, I'm doing stuff with the bike, slowly progressing to using a little bit of both legs. And then the next step is both legs running and all that stuff, so we'll get there."