LONDON -- The image posted by Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge of Gordon Hayward without an ankle brace renewed the optimism that Hayward will beat the odds and return to the floor in time for the playoffs and maybe even some late regular-season games.
But coach Brad Stevens was quick to caution folks to pump the breaks when it comes to Hayward's return.
Stevens said the photo shouldn't be a surprise, because Hayward was always scheduled to get out of his brace sometime this week.
"This is exactly what they thought the timeline would be like, just being out of a brace," Stevens said. "There's a long way to go."
Stevens added: "[All] the way from the surgery to the rehab and everything else, it's been great. That said, he hasn't done anything on the court. So, there's so many boxes still to check. It's great that he's making good strides, but the timelines and those things don't change."
Hayward landed awkwardly on a lob pass in Boston's season opener against Cleveland, resulting in a dislocated left ankle that was believed to be season-ending. Boston received an $8.4 million disabled player exception for Hayward's injury. Among the factors needed to qualify for a DPE was an independent doctor's determination that it was "unlikely" Hayward would return to playing prior to June 15.
The new All-Star format will have the player with the most votes in each conference serve as captains. Those captains will then select their team, regardless of conference affiliations, from among the players voted as starters and reserves.
So Kyrie Irving was asked if he were a captain, who would his first pick be?
"That's a set-up [question]," Irving said. "That's a set-up."
And with that, Irving Euro-stepped his way around that question.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
The surroundings are different and the amount of time to practice has changed, but Brad Stevens is going to stay true to who Brad Stevens is.
When asked about what he has done thus far in London, he replied, "Personal time? Nothing. I've done nothing other than go out and eat with the team the other night."
But he was planning to change that on Wednesday afternoon.
"I'll try to walk around a little bit today, I think," Stevens said.
Tomorrow's game might prove to be a huge boost for some of the players on each respective team when it comes to All-Star voting. Irving and Al Horford could potentially see a European bump. The same can be said for Sixers big man Joel Embiid.
"That would be great," Embiid said. "Every time I play I feel like, this is a business, I want to win, I'm a winner, I'm competitive. But at the same time, this is also for the fans. I want to have fun. I always do have fun on the court. And I play better when I have fun."
Thursday's game features two of the NBA's top rookies in Boston's Jayson Tatum and Philadelphia's Ben Simmons.
"I think he's been consistent; solid," Simmons said when asked about Tatum.
While the respect is there, Simmons makes no secret about who he thinks is better.
"I know I'm the best rookie in the league," Simmons said.
TAKING IN THE UH, SIGHTS
There's classic architecture, buildings and structures that have stood the test of time for centuries. There's quite a bit of beauty in London.
And Joel Embiid acknowledges that he has taken in some of the sights in London, but not the ones you might be thinking.
"You see a lot of beautiful women," Embiid said. "I don't know. Last time I was here it was quite a sight to see. I love beautiful women. That's what's exciting about London."
UNDER THE WEATHER
There was a notable face not among the Sixers when they took to the floor for practice on Wednesday. Former Celtic Amir Johnson was nowhere to be found. A team official said Johnson was under the weather and stayed back at the team hotel. His status for Thursday's game remains uncertain.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE