The Celtics have been without the services of superstar free agent addition Gordon Hayward since his horrific ankle injury suffered in the first quarter of a 102-99 Opening Night loss to the Cavaliers.
But that was almost seven months ago, and Hayward has since ramped up his rehabilitation efforts.
“Gordon’s making great strides,” Ainge told the Boston Herald on Friday. “He’s sprinting, he’s jumping a little bit, he’s cutting a little bit, he’s gaining a lot of momentum. I think that he’s in a good place mentally because he’s seeing and feeling the light at the end of the tunnel of being able to return and being himself. I think he’s starting to see and feel that some.”
Hayward even took to his personal blog on Friday, outlining how this postseason has gone, and how excited he has been to watch his teammates rise to the challenge on their way to a second straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance.
So, is there even a slight chance that a C’s squad without Kyrie Irving (knee, out for the year), Daniel Theis (knee, out for the year), and Shane Larkin (shoulder, week-to-week) could get Hayward back in action between now and the season’s end?
“Yeah, that’s not happening,” Ainge told the Herald when asked about a potential Hayward return. “I don’t see that. Like, listen, that’s two weeks away, and he hasn’t played basketball yet. I mean, he hasn’t played one-on-one yet. He’s doing basketball activities, but he has not played basketball yet. So, no, the answer is no. He won’t play.”
This is consistent with what Ainge has said from the start, or when this first became a ‘possibility’ to some, and what he has repeatedly told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich in recent appearances.
Give the Celtics a series lead at any point in round three, though, and I’m sure it’ll come up again.
But don’t expect the answer to change.