Celtics

Ainge: Timeline for Hayward's return hasn't changed

Ainge: Timeline for Hayward's return hasn't changed

BOSTON – There is no denying the progress that Gordon Hayward is making in his recovery from a dislocated left ankle injury suffered on opening night at Cleveland. 

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And while there’s a growing segment of Celtics Nation that feels Hayward will return in time for the playoffs, Danny Ainge reiterates Hayward’s progress has not in any way altered the timeline they have set for his return to playing. 

“We’re just hoping that Gordon makes a full recovery and that he’ll be ready by next year’s training camp,” Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, told NBC Sports Boston. “Nothing’s really changed with him.”

Hayward is doing some spot-up shooting, but doing so without jumping which helps limit the amount of weight and pressure put on the injured ankle. In addition, he’s doing some jogging on an Ultra-G machine which is an anti-gravity treadmill that aids the recovery process by allowing athletes to jog while putting a limited (if any) amount of weight on the feet and thus, less pressure on the ankle. 

"He's been so restricted," Ainge said. "He's been just biting at the bit to do more and more. And the doctors have been holding him back a little bit just to make sure everything's all healed. But now he's going to start running on the AlterG and that's a big step. And he's just taking more and more steps on the court as far as just getting full range of motion, toe lifts, and one step side to side, and things like that.

"But this next month will tell a lot."

Ainge can certainly understand the eagerness of fans to see Hayward back. But the team has maintained they will be as patient as possible when it comes to Hayward’s rehabilitation, stressing that there’s no need to rush him back soon. 

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However, Hayward has attacked the process of rehabilitation in a way that may result in him potentially being able to return at some point this season.

All involve acknowledge that it’s a longshot at best, that he’s on the court this season.

So you say there’s a chance, huh? 

That said, Ainge refuses to contemplate such a rosy scenario.

“It’s getting way ahead of ourselves,” Ainge said. “The guy is just barely starting to jog on an Ultra-G. That’s a long way from playing in playoff basketball. We’re planning on him being ready to go in training camp next year.”

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Brad Stevens channels Bill Belichick to dodge questions about starting lineup

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File Photo

Brad Stevens channels Bill Belichick to dodge questions about starting lineup

Brad Stevens was utterly Belichickian during the pregame press conference before Game 4.

The Boston Celtics coach fielded and dodged questions about the team's starting lineup. He was asked whether he would be making any changes. And he would not answer.

"We will start five people. I promise," Stevens said with a grin.

Reporters probed him a few times to try to get an answer. When their line of questioning failed, the press conference concluded -- after four questions.

Here's a look at the full transcript.

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Blakely's Game 4 Storylines: Brown knows he's got to be better early

Blakely's Game 4 Storylines: Brown knows he's got to be better early

CLEVELAND – That old basketball adage of “taking it one game at a time” has been modernized by today’s players, who have replaced it with “staying in the moment.”

Jaylen Brown is part of that movement, for sure.

Still, Brown has long exposed us to the reality that he’s a next-level thinker, someone who balances the reality of today with the promise that tomorrow brings, basketball and otherwise.

That’s why for him, the connectivity between tonight’s game and Boston’s ultimate goal – winning a championship – are intertwined in such a way that you can’t realistically look at one without acknowledgement of the other, which is why he’s operating on a level of focus unlike any prior to this point in his basketball career.

“We’re two games away from going to the NBA Finals,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “And six [wins] away from doing something special. We’re too close and we came too far to not be focused.”

And Brown knows his play will be among the keys to Boston leaving Cleveland with a Game 4 win and with that, absolute control of the series.

In Boston’s two wins in this series, Brown averaged 13.5 points in the first quarter.

The Game 3 loss saw Brown go scoreless in the first quarter while taking one shot attempt.

“We have to come in and play Celtics basketball and find ways to win,” Brown said.

Here are five other under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s Game 4 at Quicken Loans Arena:

HORFORD STREAK SNAPPED


Before scoring just seven points on 2-for-4 shooting in Game 3, Al Horford had reached double figures in points in every playoff game this season. Look for the Celtics to make a more concerted effort to get Horford going offensively tonight.

ROZIER’S RISE


Terry Rozier has had one of the best postseasons ever by a Celtic when it comes to knocking down 3-pointers. He currently has 41 made 3’s in this postseason, which ranks fifth all-time for a single postseason. Boston has at least two more games in this series with Cleveland (tonight and Game 5 in Boston on Wednesday) and at his current rate of 2.7 made 3’s per game, Rozier is on pace to finish this postseason with at least 46 made 3’s which would rank third all-time behind Ray Allen, who made 56 three-pointers in 2010 and 55 in 2008.

IN GOOD COMPANY


Much has been said about the Celtics’ struggles on the road in the playoffs, and justifiably so. They have lost five of six road games in the postseason, which gives them the worst road record among teams still playing. Their struggles aren’t all that different than Boston’s 2008 title-winning team, which also had problems away from the TD Garden. In fact, that team didn’t fare much better than this current Celtics with losses in nine of their 12 road games. That team survived round after round due to having home court advantage, a similar blueprint that has been working for this current crew of Celtics players.

SMART'S POSITIVE CONTRIBUTIONS


Even though the shots falling continue to be sporadic at best for Marcus Smart, you can’t knock the man for what seems to be good things happening most of the time he’s on the floor. Smart has a plus/minus of +18 in this series, which is tops among all players.

POWER OF 3


The 3-point shot has been the ultimate litmus test for whether Cleveland wins or loses in the playoffs. In losses, the Cavs averaged 8.8 made 3-pointers while shooting just 27.3 percent from beyond the arc. In victories, the number of made 3s increases to 11.8 per game while Cleveland’s 3-point shooting also rises, to 39.4 percent.

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