Gordon Hayward won't close door on return

BOSTON -- Celtics forward Gordon Hayward will not formally rule himself out for the remainder of the 2017-18 season, reaffirming that his focus remains on day-to-day improvements and seeing where that leads him.

Less than a week after Celtics coach Brad Stevens offered his most emphatic "He's not playing this year" when asked about Hayward's recovery, Hayward wouldn't close the door completely on the possibility.

"My thoughts are that I take it day by day. And I said that from the very beginning, that's what I would do, not putting a timetable on it," Hayward said Friday while unveiling a new gym for students at the Timilty Middle School in Roxbury. "The recovery is going well. I'm progressing well. I was in the facility this morning, will be in the facility tomorrow. And that's kinda my goal -- just really focusing day by day."

Hayward has said multiple times this season that he was hopeful of being able to return.

"The hope is still there," Hayward said. "It's something where I'm really honestly not even thinking about it. I know we're getting toward the end of the year. It's something that I'm still working toward, but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."

Hayward said he ran at 70 percent of his body weight on an anti-gravity treadmill at the team's practice facility Friday morning. Once he hits 80 percent, he expects to be able to transition to running on his full body weight. Hayward said he can do "baby jumps" but hopes to get further lift after he is able to run.

Given Stevens' recent comments, along with those from Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, that Hayward is unlikely to return this season, Hayward could have slammed the door on a possible return and stopped the questions he is bombarded with every time he goes out in public.

Instead, he remains focused on improvement.

"Every single time I go out, people ask how's my ankle, am I coming back?" Hayward said. "So I get it all the time. ... Haven't really thought about [the possibility of a return]. Just continuing to think, like, what am I going to do today that will [make him] better."

Hayward said it was jarring to watch teammate Jaylen Brown crash hard to the floor Thursday night in Minnesota. Brown slipped coming off the rim and landed on his shoulder and neck area. The team announced Friday that he is in the concussion protocol and out indefinitely.

"It was a nasty, scary fall," Hayward said. "I haven't had a chance to speak with him yet. He didn't come into the facility this morning, but very blessed that nothing happened so far. It seems like he thinks he's OK. He was able to walk off. You have scary moments like that when you're in the air."

The arena went hushed in the aftermath, very much like when his ankle injury happened on opening night in Cleveland.

"You're hoping that he's OK. It happened so suddenly too, like he didn't expect it," Hayward said. "...When he's able to finally walk off, you're at least a little bit relieved."

Hayward said he has been encouraged by watching how well the Celtics (46-20) have performed in his absence.

"They've been really good," Hayward said. "The amount of guys that we have on the team that seem to step up, different guys on different nights, obviously led by Kyrie [Irving] and Al [Horford], I think it's getting guys a lot of valuable experiences, and it's been fun watching it and cheering them on."