Ainge: ‘Nothing's changed' regarding Hayward's return


LONDON -- The image of Gordon Hayward not wearing an ankle brace was the kind of visual tease that Celtics fans took and ran with, believing it to be proof that Hayward’s return to action was near.

Well, the man who posted the picture via social media -- Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge -- provided some context on the photo during his weekly call-in to 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show.

Ainge said the goal was for Hayward to be brace-free three months out from when the injury occurred (Oct. 17), which would have put him moving about without a brace around now.

But in terms of what everybody wants to know -- when will he play again? -- there are numerous steps that still need to be taken and cleared before that becomes a realistic topic of conversation.

Coach Brad Stevens discussed the picture shortly after it was posted, reiterating that the plan all along was, if things went as expected, Hayward would be out of his brace sometime this month.

But Stevens cautioned, “There’s a long way to go” before adding, “[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.”

And as far as talks about his return, Ainge addressed that straight-on Thursday morning.

“That conversation (Hayward returning to play) has not happened and will not happen for a long time from now,” Ainge said. “We’re putting no pressure on that situation. Our mindset is still that he will play next year. Nothing has changed in that regard.”


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