Hay­ward: ‘Re­hab was most dif­fi­cult thing I’ve done’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

BOS­TON — The Celtics were in sunny Los An­ge­les, it was an­other sub-zero win­ter day back home, and Gor­don Hay­ward was stuck in re­hab, shoot­ing bas­kets from a chair and pick­ing up mar­bles with his toes to work his sur­gi­cally re­paired an­kle back into shape.

“The hard­est part of the whole process has been the men­tal chal­lenge,” Hay­ward said on Thurs­day, re­port­ing that he is 100 per­cent healthy and pre­par­ing to be on the court for the Oct 16 sea­son opener against the Philadel­phia 76ers.

“I think you find the fight within your­self.”

The Celtics’ top free agent ac­qui­si­tion of 2017, Hay­ward was in­jured in the first quar­ter of the first game of the sea­son when he landed awk­wardly on his left leg, break­ing his tibia and dis­lo­cat­ing his an­kle.

He might have been able to re­turn be­fore the end of the sea­son, but then he needed more surgery in May.

“There’s so many days where I wake up and it’s like, ‘Man, here we go again,’” Hay­ward said.

“It was the most dif­fi­cult thing I’ve done.”

Speak­ing at the new prac­tice fa­cil­ity named for iconic coach Red Auer­bach, Hay­ward said he cel­e­brated each bit of progress — the walk­ing boot com­ing off, or shoot­ing bas­kets stand­ing up, instead of sit­ting in a chair.

Within the past two weeks he has been able to play “soft con­tact” basketball, eas­ing into the com­pe­ti­tion by play­ing more min­utes ev­ery time he takes the floor.

“With each step I get some joy,” said Hay­ward, who then slipped into his Celtics uni­form and took part in a photo shoot.

Now, he said, he is ready to get back in the green for real.

“I ex­pect to be out there for the opener,” he said.

“I would say I’m ba­si­cally 100 per­cent. There are cer­tain things that I think are go­ing to take time.

“Even if I was 100 per­cent healthy, I’m not 100 per­cent basketball-wise, just be­cause I haven’t played in a year. I’m try­ing to fig­ure those things out.”

De­spite los­ing both Hay­ward and, later, point guard Kyrie Irv­ing, the Celtics earned the No 2 seed in the East last sea­son and took Cleve­land to seven games in the con­fer­ence fi­nal.

“Watch­ing the guys last year just gave me a lot of con­fi­dence in our team and what I think we have the abil­ity to do,” he said.

“I’ve been play­ing with some of them these last two weeks, and we have a lot of tal­ent on this team.”

Bird taking a break af­ter vi­o­lence charges

Gor­don Hay­ward

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