Should Reporter’s Recent Gordon Hayward Observation Quash Return Talk?

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Celtics forward Gordon Hayward

Photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

To steal a line Rick Pitino used 18 years ago Thursday: Gordon Hayward isn’t walking through that door, folks.

The latest updates on the Boston Celtics forward haven’t been promising: Head coach Brad Stevens reiterated Hayward won’t come back from his ankle injury this season, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge admitted Hayward still has “a long way to go.”

Then, Yahoo Sports’ Chris Mannix dropped this report Thursday morning:

“I saw Hayward before the All-Star break. He’s walking fine, but his ankle was still swollen and still purpleish, which makes it impossible to believe he will be ready to play before mid-April.”

Mannix added: “Don’t count on Gordon Hayward coming back this season. … The Celtics’ roster is locked in.”

Hayward miraculously returning ahead of a Celtics playoff run always was a bit of a pipe dream. Even if his rehab went better than planned — reports indicate it has — it’d be a lot to ask someone who hasn’t played since Opening Night to dive head-first into high-intensity, playoff basketball.

There’s also the mental aspect: Hayward’s gruesome injury was the type of freak accident that takes time put behind you (just ask Paul George). The playoffs are no testing ground for Hayward to find out if the mental scars have healed as well as the physical ones.

Hayward isn’t going anywhere — he’s under contract until 2021 — so Celtics fans might just have to wait until next fall to see him in uniform again.

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