Celtics

Gordon Hayward eyes potential Celtics return Monday night vs. Cavaliers

Gordon Hayward eyes potential Celtics return Monday night vs. Cavaliers

BOSTON — Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward said the fractured bone in his left hand has completely healed and acknowledged the possibility that he could return to action on Monday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"Bone has healed, probably stronger than my right hand. There’s a plate in there with screws. The bone is good,” Hayward said Sunday after going through the team’s offday practice. Boston did not engage in any live 5-on-5 action but Hayward sounded open to returning Monday.

"Tomorrow’s a possibility,” he said. "See how I feel when I wake up, go through shootaround, see how it goes.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he’d let the training staff determine when Hayward was ready to return but also didn’t rule out Monday and noted, “he’s coming back sooner than later.”

The Celtics originally announced a 6-week return-to-action timeline for Hayward after he underwent surgery to repair a fourth metacarpal fracture in his left hand on November 11. Hayward suffered the injury running into LaMarcus Aldridge on Nov. 9.

Hayward has ramped up activity over the past week and acknowledged that an earlier return seemed possibly recently.

"I mean you try to take it day-by-day. I think as it’s steadily improving and can do more and more, you start to think coming back a little bit earlier,” said Hayward. "I think you set the timeline a little bit later than what you’re hoping for just so that [the media] and everyone else isn’t like — if you’re late like, what’s the deal?”

Hayward stressed that, if the bone is fully healed, he’s at no real risk for reinjury without taking another shot.

"I can’t do anything that’s going to hurt it. I’m going to have to get hit equally as hard, probably more than last time, because I have the metal in my hand now,” said Hayward. "So the bone is healed. I can’t hurt it worse. It’s almost like playing through the pain, the tissues that I have in my hand, those are a lot slower to recover, so those are going to be sore a little bit. Motion and strength is going to take a little while to get back; it’s whether or not you can play through that and still be effective. That’s kind of what we’re determining but the bone is healed.”

Hayward said he does not expect to have the hardware in his hand removed unless it bothers him further down the road. He admitted he’s been cautious with the hand as he ramps up contact activities but doesn’t expect that to linger.

"It’s definitely something I’m still guarding and it’s going to be like that for a little while,” said Hayward. "That’s only natural. But part of that is getting out there and playing and getting over it mentally. I have gotten a hit [by an assistant coach], it reacted normally to that. The bone has healed and that’s the important part.”

A six-week return had Hayward looking at closer to a Christmas return. The Celtics play three games in four nights starting with Monday’s visit from the Cavaliers.

Boston is 9-4 without Hayward.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

NBA Rumors: 'No traction' on Andre Drummond trade as deadline nears

NBA Rumors: 'No traction' on Andre Drummond trade as deadline nears

If the Detroit Pistons really want to trade Andre Drummond, they'll need to step on the gas pedal.

Teams have "kicked the tires" on a potential Drummond trade but there has been "no traction" on any deal ahead of Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix reported Friday.

The Boston Celtics reportedly are among the teams interested in the 26-year-old big man, who leads the NBA in rebounds per game (15.7) and ranks eighth in blocks (1.8).

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Drummond would give Boston an answer to Eastern Conference giants like Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Milwaukee's Brook and Robin Lopez while bolstering a thin frontcourt currently holding its own with Enes Kanter and an overachieving Daniel Theis.

As Mannix points out, though, Drummond's $27 million cap hit could be a deal-breaker for many teams, including the Celtics. The C's would have to move Gordon Hayward or Marcus Smart and at least one other player to make salaries match, but the team seems reluctant to part with any members of their core.

If Boston still wants an upgrade, it may find better luck with Davis Bertans; Mannix reports there's a "feeling around the league" that the Washington Wizards "almost have to shop" the 27-year-old big man, who is averaging 15.3 points per game and shooting 43.4 percent from 3-point range amid a breakout season.

What to make of the Celtics amid their midseason tailspin

What to make of the Celtics amid their midseason tailspin

MILWAUKEE — The Boston Celtics will arrive at the midway point of the 2019-20 season this weekend trying to pull themselves out of a tailspin that’s seen them drop five of their last seven games, including a pair of Eastern Conference showdowns with chief rivals Philadelphia and Milwaukee a week apart.

The Celtics have vacillated somewhere between enjoyable overachiever capable of pushing the East’s best to a maddening squad with fatal flaws that might prevent it from truly emerging in the conference. Sometimes they look like both in the same night.

Like on Thursday in Milwaukee when Boston dug itself a 27-point hole as the NBA-leading Bucks hit an absurd barrage of first-half 3-pointers. Just when it seemed fair to suggest that Boston’s early season success might have been the product on feasting on inferior competition, a Jaylen Brown-less Boston squad jumped on Kemba Walker’s back and nearly roared all the way back.

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As coach Brad Stevens likes to remind his team, you’re never as good as you think you are, you’re never as bad as you think you are, and you’re never far from either. The Celtics’ inability to field a fully healthy roster has clouded their overall potential and we’re left making bold proclamations off small samples of good and bad play.

Are the Celtics true contenders? Maybe, but the past couple weeks hasn’t helped their case. Boston is now 7-8 against teams over .500 and only two of those wins came on the road (both when an opponent was missing a key player). They whiffed with a chance to pounce on an Embiid-less Philly last week and then couldn’t capitalize on Giannis-less minutes after getting within single digits in the second half on Thursday night.

Do the Celtics need to make a move? Maybe, but it’d be a lot easier to judge if we could ever see all their puzzle pieces together. Boston’s bench play has been woeful at times and, for all the consternation about their lack of pure size, it sure feels like shooting is what they should be targeting. And yet it’s fair to wonder, if Brown plays on Thursday, and Marcus Smart shifts to his typical bench role, then maybe the bench production doesn’t look as meager.

Ultimately, bench pieces aren’t going to tip this thing one way or another. The Celtics are going to go as far as their five best players can carry them, as Stevens made clear after Thursday’s loss.

"We’re going to ride our best five, as we’ve talked about quite a bit, and then we just need everybody else to play a role around them,” said Stevens. "But we need those five to be awfully good.”

On this night, Walker was exceptional. On the same night that Kyrie Irving delivered one of his patented rants about roster flaws in Brooklyn, Walker challenged himself to be better after a disheartening loss to the Pistons. He responded with a 40-point, 11-rebound outburst in Milwaukee. As Stevens abridged, "Only reason we had a chance.”

The coach added, “It's not [Walker’s] responsibility to be responsible for everybody else’s energy but I’m glad that he accepts it. I’m glad that he wants that. He certainly brought it tonight. He was awfully special tonight.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Gordon Hayward, who has been on a bit of a roller coaster since returning from nerve pain in his foot on Christmas Day. Hayward missed nine of the 10 shots he took — including eight 3-pointers — while finishing with 7 points over 32:15.

“I thought we had some good looks, especially personally, I had some good looks. But we just didn’t make them,” said Hayward. “Have to be better next time.”

But that only accentuates Boston’s rather thin margin for error against the elite (and maybe the not-so elite, too). The team had been undefeated this season when playing without Brown but they really missed him on Thursday. The Celtics don’t have the sort of top-end talent that can win a game individually (though Walker sure as hell tried on Thursday).

A February 6 trade deadline looms. It’s hard to imagine the Celtics making a big-splash move but adding a bench piece — if for no other reason than the run of injuries this team continues to endure — remains something the team must consider. Maybe that’s using picks to help fetch a shooter, or maybe it’s just thumbing through the scrap heap for someone who can be a more steady eighth or ninth man. The youngsters on this team have had their moments but they’re also being asked to do a lot at young ages.

It was telling, though, Thursday when Boston cut its deficit to 8 and Antetokounmpo headed to the bench with just under five minutes to play in the third quarter. Boston should have capitalized but its sub lineups floundered and Milwaukee pushed its lead back up to 20 before Antetokounmpo returned at the end of the quarter. A second Boston run came up just short at the end of the game.

Stevens glowed about how the second half looked more like “Celtics basketball.” Smart insisted the team wouldn’t overreact to this rough patch.

"It’s the NBA. You can’t get discouraged off that,” said Smart. "We’ve played two back-to-back nights and stuff like that. You can’t let that discourage you. That’s part of it. We’re at the 40-game mark. It happens.”

Maybe he’s right. Still, watching this team on a daily basis, we yearn for a glimpse of this team when whole. But who knows if it’ll ever happen. Robert Williams could be a nice jolt for the center rotation if he’s able to come back after the All-Star break but that’s unlikely to alter the path of this team much.

No, the success of this team more likely hinges on Smart, Brown, Tatum, Hayward, and Walker.

“I think we’re still pretty good,” said Hayward. "I don’t think the team is down or anything like that. I think we realize we’ve got work to do and we get right back to it.”

The quest to figure out exactly what these Celtics are continues. They’re not as good as we though they were, they’re not as bad as some will make it seem now. But they’re never quite far from either.