Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward intends to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, just five weeks removed from undergoing surgery to repair the fractured fourth metatarsal in his left hand.
After participating in Monday’s shootaround, Hayward felt good enough to return ahead of the six-week timeline originally offered by the Celtics. He will have his hand tested once more prior to tipoff against the Cavs, Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, told Yahoo Sports, and barring an unforeseen setback, he will play for the first time since breaking the bone against the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 9.
Hayward was listed as questionable on Sunday, when he surprisingly declared himself near an early return.
“I can't do anything that's going to hurt it,” Hayward told reporters on Sunday, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “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.”
Hayward was averaging 20.3 points (on 56/44/84 shooting splits), 7.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 31.1 minutes per game when he left 15 minutes into last month’s game against the Spurs. Prior to his latest injury, the 29-year-old finally looked to have regained his All-Star form after suffering a gruesome ankle fracture in the 2017-18 season opener, just six minutes into his Boston career. News of the broken bone in his hand seemed almost unfair when it happened, and that played into Hayward’s drive for an early return.
Hayward had a metal plate and screws put into his left hand during the Nov. 11 surgery in hopes of expediting his return. The doctor recently cleared him, so long as he can play through pain, discomfort and swelling in the traumatized tissue around the fully healed bone in his non-shooting hand. Hayward will readdress whether or not the metal in his hand should be removed following the season, his agent said.
“He has worked unbelievably hard to keep in great shape and do everything humanly possible to get back this early,” Bartelstein told Yahoo Sports of Hayward, who holds a $34.2 million player option next season. “He’s not 100 percent and probably won’t be for a few weeks, but he wants to play in the worst way.”
The Celtics were in the midst of a 10-game winning streak when Hayward went down and submitted a 9-4 record in his absence, holding the East’s second seed. Boston has outscored opponents by 11.4 points per 100 possessions with Hayward in the lineup, more than six points better than the Celtics are without him.
News of Hayward’s return comes on an injury report that lists Marcus Smart (eye infection) as questionable and Rob Williams (sore left hip) out. Hayward’s return will return Smart to the bench when both are healthy.
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