OKLAHOMA CITY — Gordon Hayward is back at the Boston Celtics’ facility, but he won’t be returning to game action for the rest of the 2017-18 season.
Hayward, who sustained a season-ending ankle fracture in the first five minutes of the Celtics’ season opener, is officially done for the year. However, he is spending more time with his team and attacking his rehabilitation at full speed.
As Boston was preparing for a Friday night game at Oklahoma City, Hayward was finding a way to get on the court. Earlier this week, he took shots from a chair.
“Shooting out of a chair is a little bit different than shooting standing up. It’s pretty short,” Hayward said at a news conference Thursday. “But just to be out on the court with a basketball … that was an incredible feeling, just to start that process.
“Just because, for two weeks or whatever, I was in a bed with my foot up the whole time. Those hours seem like they last forever because you’re just sitting there and bored and can’t do much.”
Oklahoma City forward Paul George knows all too well what Hayward is going through.
George missed most of the 2014-15 season when he sustained a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula in a USA Basketball scrimmage. Hayward was in the Las Vegas gym when George collided with the basketball goal stanchion and broke his leg.
“We’ve talked back and forth,” Hayward said of his relationship with George. “I’m sure he’s somebody I can lean on.”
Though the Celtics started the season 0-2 without Hayward, the team has rallied to win six straight entering the matchup with the Thunder. Sitting at 6-2, Boston is tied with the Orlando Magic for the best record in the NBA.
The Celtics also have one of the best defenses in the league, holding opponents to an average of 93.8 points.
That will be put to the test as they prepare to take on a trio of offensive powerhouses, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Russell Westbrook. Anthony leads the Thunder with 22.9 points per game, and Westbrook and George average 19.6.
Center Steven Adams is right behind the Big Three, averaging 14.4 points per game.
“Steve’s growing in all aspects of the game,” Thunder guard Andre Roberson said. “You can just see it in his confidence as well. Feels more comfortable. He got more years under his belt, and he knows what to expect.
“He’s been in the league for five years, and I think they kind of throw a little bit of everything at him. He knows what to do now.”
Oklahoma City (4-3) possesses one of the NBA’s top defenses, too, holding opponents to 95.6 points per game. The Thunder’s opponents are shooting 41.9 percent from the field, among the best marks in the NBA.
While the Celtics won’t have the offensive weaponry that Hayward brings, they will have point guard Kyrie Irving, who leads the team with 21.8 points per game and 5.6 assists.
Rookie forward Jayson Tatum also figures to give Boston a boost with his 13.8 points per game. Through the first eight games of his NBA career, the Duke product is making 49.3 percent of his shots from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the arc.
“If I know anything based on my experience of playing them the past couple of years, knowing what (Celtics coach) Brad Stevens likes to do, then they’re the same Boston team,” Anthony said. “He’s a great coach. He always comes prepared. His teams always execute the game plan, so we’ve got to be prepared for whatever they throw at us.”