The star forward, who has been out since breaking a bone in his left hand late in the second quarter against the Cheap San Antonio Spurs Jerseys China on Nov. 9, told reporters after Sunday’s practice at the team’s facility that he could make his return Monday night at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Tomorrow’s a possibility,” said Hayward, who the Celtics later listed as questionable. “See how I feel when I wake up, go through shootaround, see how it goes.”
Monday would mark exactly four weeks since Hayward underwent surgery to repair the bone in his hand in New York on Nov. 11. At the time, the Celtics said he could miss up to six weeks, but Hayward said he’s only been focused on getting healthy and letting the exact day of his return sort itself out.
“Yeah, I mean, you try to take it day-by-day,” Hayward said. “I think as it’s steadily improving and can do more and more, you start to think coming back a little bit earlier. I think you set the timeline a little bit later than what you’re hoping for just so that you guys and everyone else isn’t like, ‘If you’re late like, what’s the deal?’ ”
Hayward, 29, has been shooting without restrictions for more than a week, and after being cleared to begin contact work last Monday, has spent time working out with coaches this past week as he gradually moved closer to a return. Doctors put a plate in his left hand with screws to stabilize the bone — a procedure that Hayward said made his left hand “probably stronger than my right hand,” in addition to saying that the bone has fully healed.
“I can’t do anything that’s going to hurt it,” Hayward said. “I’m going to have to get hit equally as hard, probably more than last time, because I have the metal in my hand now. So the bone is healed. I can’t hurt it worse. It’s almost like playing through the pain, the tissues that I have in my hand, those are a lot slower to recover, so those are going to be sore a little bit.
“Motion and strength is going to take a little while to get back; it’s whether or not you can play through that and still be effective. That’s kind of what we’re determining, but the bone is healed.”
That’s music to Boston’s ears, as the Celtics could really use Hayward. While the Celtics have largely continued their hot start, going 9-4 in the 13 games Hayward has missed since their 7-1 start with him in the lineup, his absence has led to a lot of minutes for unproven or inexperienced bench options who have largely struggled in their expanded role.
Hayward’s return will both allow those lesser players to take on more appropriate roles and help Jayson Tatum, who’s been forced to carry the minutes when Kemba Walker has been on the bench, to middling results.
Mostly, though, the Celtics will simply be thrilled to have Hayward back. The former Jazz forward looked to be returning to his All-Star form to start this season, averaging 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists, shooting 55.5 percent from the field and 43.2 percent from 3-point range.