CHICAGO When the Boston Celtics prepared to board their flight to Chicago, there was familiar face waiting for them -- Kevin Garnett.
"Kevin, when he wants to play, he lets you know he wants to play," said Doc Rivers.
Garnett got his wish, with the C's medical staff giving him the green light to return to the Celtics lineup in time for tonight's game against the Chicago Bulls.
Garnett, who is averaging 14 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this season, did not play in Boston's 98-88 loss to Detroit on Wednesday due to a hip flexor injury.
Rivers said Garnett's return to the lineup is consistent with the initial timetable once it was determined he had a hip flexor injury.
"It's more Eddie (Lacerte, the team's trainer) and Kevin," Rivers said. "Both thought because he had given him two day's rest, with the two days off and with the third day, and Eddie had originally said he thought three days would be very healthy for him. That's basically what we did."
FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski's never suffered a break like the one Gordon Hayward did on Tuesday night, but he has been through enough to know what lies ahead as the Celtics forward stares at a lengthy recovery period.
"I saw it. I mean, I wish him nothing but wellness," Gronkowski said on Wednesday. "Hopefully he heals ASAP. You never want to see that with a player in any sport. When my friend showed me that last night, you get that feeling in your body, like, your heart drops. I wish him well.
"I can't wait to see him back. I know he's going to bounce back. Being here in Boston, he's going to be a hard worker it feels like. I can't wait to see him back."
Multiple back surgeries, a plate in his arm, a surgically-repaired ACL . . . Gronkowski has put in his share of rehabilitation work. Asked if he'd give Hayward any advice as he embarks on his road back to normalcy, Gronkowski's message was simple.
"Just go into rehab just like you go into anything else. Dominate it," Gronkowski said. "Come back when you feel ready. Come back when you're 100 percent . . . He wouldn't be where he is now if he wasn't a hard worker. I don't know the guy. Never met him. But it's not something you want to see as an athlete happen to anyone else."
Gronkowski acknowledged that in his experience, one of the biggest hurdles following an injury like that is the mental one. You quickly go from being a powerful athlete to a patient in need of help with even the smallest of tasks.
"There is a big mental challenge, definitely, with that," Gronkowski explained. "It's not just not being able to be with your teammates and all that. It's outside of football, too. Because it takes away your whole life, going out like that . . . You can't do anything. You can't walk. You gotta have people do [things for you]. You get really frustrated. You just want the people around you to help you out and keep you in the best mindset throughout the whole process."
Wednesday's practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Falcons game:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
CB Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle)
LB Harvey Langi (back)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
WR Chris Hogan (ribs)
G Shaq Mason (shoulder)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
K Matt Bryant (back)
OLB Vic Beasley Jr. (hamstring)
LB Jermaine Grace (hamstring)
LB Deion Jones (quadricep)
DE Takk McKinley (shoulder)
LB Duke Riley (knee)
WR Mohamed Sanu (hamstring)
DL Courtney Upshaw (ankle/knee)