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Celtics' Hayward dealing with back pain, aims to play Opening Night

Almost a year removed from a gruesome, season-ending ankle and leg injury suffered just five minutes into his first season with the Boston Celtics, Gordon Hayward finds himself battling through another issue -- a sore back.

"In the past, it's bothered me but always calmed down and was fine with treatments and stuff," Hayward said when discussing the back issue that held him out of the Celtics' preseason finale. "But this time it was getting worse, especially after playing.

"Some days off really helped it. I have found out that it’s going to be a process because of not playing for so long, the rest of my body has to readjust. It’s very frustrating, but it’s better right now.”

It's been a slow ease back into game shape for the 28-year-old Hayward, who connected on just five of his 20 shots (and went just 1-for-10 from three-point land) and averaged 19.7 minutes per night in his three preseason appearances. And it's come with its share of frustration from a player that joined the Celtics on the heels of career-best numbers with the Utah Jazz in 2016-17.

“It’s definitely hard,” Hayward, who signed a max deal with the C's in 2017, admitted of his recovery. “It’s hard to be patient and understand that it’s going to take some time.

"It’s not something I’ve ever had to deal with, either, so I don’t know what to expect and how long it’s going to take to find my rhythm, but I do have to be patient and do what I can to help us win.”

Doing his part to manage the pain, Hayward noted that he does expect to be on the floor with the rest of his teammates when the Celtics open the 2018 season next Tuesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers.