Celtics coach Brad Stevens says he expects Gordon Hayward to return to play against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, though he didn’t offer a specific timeline on when that might be.
“I think he’ll be back at some point in that series, but I don’t know when,” Stevens said late Friday night, after the Celtics eliminated the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series.
Hayward cleared quarantine earlier in the day Friday and sat on the bench for Boston’s 92-87 victory. Prior to tip-off, he was out on the court getting shots up with assistant coach Scott Morrison.
During the game’s broadcast, TNT sideline reporter Rebecca Haarlow reported that a person within the Celtics organization told her Hayward is expected to return “sooner rather than later.” The team had initially ruled Hayward out for at least four weeks following his Grade III ankle sprain suffered in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Sept. 15 marks the end of the four-week timetable. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals is scheduled to tip off that evening. Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 17, with Game 3 to follow on Saturday, Sept. 19.
Stevens previously considered a four-week recovery to be “aggressive.”
Hayward had re-entered the NBA’s “bubble” campus on Sunday, after leaving to rehab in his home state of Indiana, where his pregnant wife, Robyn, and three kids are stationed during the postseason. Robyn is due in late September, and Hayward initially planned to leave the “bubble” for the birth of his fourth child. It is unclear whether he still intends on leaving.
Should Hayward exit the “bubble” once more, he will again be subject to a quarantine period before he can rejoin the team. The length of the period depends on multiple factors, including the length of his absence and his testing frequency while away.
Hayward has not spoken to the media since returning to the “bubble.”