Gordon Hayward’s long road to recovery technically hasn’t ended yet. But he’s in the home stretch.
The Boston Celtics forward said in a press conference Thursday he feels “basically 100 percent” after two surgeries on his left ankle and fully expects to play in both the preseason and the regular season opener on Oct. 16.
Hayward, who suffered a gruesome ankle injury almost a year ago in the Celtics’ 2017 season opener, said he’s been playing 5-on-5 for a few weeks now, but there’s still one final hurdle to clear as he ramps up for the 2018-19 campaign.
“There’s certain things that I think are going to take time, even if I was 100 percent healthy,” Hayward said. “I’m not 100 percent as far as basketball-wise, just because I haven’t played in a year, so I’m trying to figure those things out.
“The last step for me, as far as from a physical standpoint, is the little explosion, that little last juice, bounce that you get. That’s going to take me the longest time, but, like I said, for the most part I feel very good.”
The Celtics kick off training camp Sept. 26 and will play four preseason games before opening the season at home against the Philadelphia 76ers. Hayward says he plans to fully utilize the next month to get back into game shape.
“I think this is what this time is for, is for me to kind of find my groove a little bit,” he said. “You can do all the drills you want, all the cardio, the jumping, agility stuff, but there’s nothing like playing 5-on-5. So, when I play out here with my teammates, when we get into practice situations, that’s going to be the best. Playing in the preseason games, that’s going to be the best work that I can get.
” … I’ve played four times 5-on-5 after not playing for a year, so that part is going to take some time, just figuring out those timings, those different things that over the years when you play it just comes naturally. When you take a long break like that, you’ve got to kind of find it again, so that’s what I’m using this time for.”