Gordon Hayward Is Dunking Again, Feels He’s Improved These Skills Post-Injury

Gordon Hayward took a literal leap in his recovery last week.

The Boston Celtics forward, who hasn’t played organized basketball since fracturing his ankle in his Boston Celtics debut last October, is ramping up his rehab to the point where he can now throw down.

“I dunked the basketball for the first time off my left foot — without pain — last week,” Hayward told Boston.com’s Nicole Yang on Thursday night during an appearance at the Xfinity store in Cambridge, Mass. “That felt awesome. I went into it very soft and gingerly, and after I did it, I was like, ‘OK, that didn’t hurt at all.’ I did it again, and it felt good.”

Hayward suffered a minor setback in his recovery in May when he underwent a second surgery to remove a few plates and screws that were bothering him from his first operation. But in a blog post just over three weeks ago, the 28-year-old wrote he expected to be pretty much pain-free and unencumbered in “four to six weeks.”

It appears Hayward is right on schedule: He now can do full straight-ahead sprints and some lateral movements like cutting left and right. Additionally, the veteran forward said he’s used his lengthy rehab to improve some key parts of his game — notably his shooting.

“I spent so many days just shooting out of a chair, or so many days standing and shooting or doing mini-jumping and shooting because that’s all I could do,” Hayward said. “I do think my shot’s got a little bit quicker.

“There will still be a little bit of the transition period for me, as I go from doing drills that are rehearsed to playing live. That’s just like a timing thing. I just have to play again for a little bit, but I really do think my shot has improved.”

Hayward also believes he’s raised his basketball IQ.

“On the mental side of the game, being able to see things and watch for a year has helped me process where the right reads are, what guys do really well that make them better, (and) what guys do that make the game harder for themselves. I think that’ll help, too,” he said.

Hayward is expected to be a full go for training camp, where he hopes to put his money where his mouth is in a “take two” of his Celtics debut.

“I feel like we’re in like a time warp to about a year ago,” he added. “The team went back to the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m joining the team. I get a chance to play with Kyrie (Irving) and the young talent. I’m still just as excited.”

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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