Every time Boston Celtics fans get their hopes up about Gordon Hayward, Brad Stevens is there to give them a reality check.
Despite some positive developments from Hayward in recent days as he rehabs his injured left ankle, Stevens insisted Saturday he doesn’t expect Hayward to return this season.
“We don’t anticipate him being back this season,” the Celtics coach said prior to Boston’s game against the Golden State Warriors, via MassLive.com’s Jay King.
That’s pretty cut-and-dry, although Stevens did acknowledge that Hayward has made impressive progress.
“He makes a lot of shots standing still,” Stevens added. “I mean, a lot. Like, he’s a heck of a standstill shooter now. And he’s really good in a chair, too. But nothing new.”
Hayward’s wife, Robyn, posted an Instagram video last Sunday of the 27-year-old calmly drilling set shot 3-pointers. Hayward then traveled with the team on its West Coast trip and was seen getting up shots at Staples Center before the Celtics’ matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Those two videos alone reignited speculation that Hayward could return to action before the season ends, as the veteran forward did admit recently his “mind is open” to a possible comeback. But Stevens has been pretty consistent throughout the season that Hayward’s next game for Boston won’t be until next fall, and that scenario still seems most likely.
Even if Hayward was ready to play at the end of the regular season or postseason, he’d face an immense challenge in getting up to game speed — both physically and mentally — during the most important games of the Celtics’ season. Considering he’s under contract for the next three full seasons, Boston likely won’t want to risk any roadblocks that could crop up from a premature return.