Celtics

Celtics

TORONTO -- Only Daniel Theis played fewer minutes than Gordon Hayward among the Boston Celtics’ starters in the team’s 118-102 Christmas Day win over Toronto.

Chances are pretty good that Hayward will continue looking up to at least a couple of fellow starters when it comes to minutes played. 

That’s because the nerve-related foot ailment that sidelined him for three games prior to returning on Christmas Day, is going to need to be managed for the immediate future according to Hayward. 

“It’s still a little sore, but it’s playable,” Hayward said after the win. “So, it’s good; it’s good.”

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Hayward was then asked if the injury will need to be managed going forward this season.

“It’ll have to be managed,” Hayward said. “Nerves take a while to calm down, from what I’ve been told. So we’re trying not to irritate it and manage it, keep it moving.”

I asked him if that management he speaks of involves his playing time being within a certain range. 

“I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s more, just trying to make sure it doesn’t get irritated as much and just trying to continue calming it down. Some of that is medicine-related, topical creams, different things, just different treatments we’re trying to do.”

Keeping a relatively healthy Hayward in the mix is critical to Boston’s success going forward. 

One of the strengths of the Celtics all season has been their speed, athleticism and versatility at the wing position. 

Having Hayward around only strengthens what is a clear and undeniable strength of this Celtics roster when you consider the impact made by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on a night-in, night-out basis, not to mention the contributions they have received this year from Marcus Smart who is currently out because of an eye infection.

Hayward is another multi-positional wing in the 6-6 to 6-9 range that serves a multitude of purposes for Boston at both ends of the floor. 

“The key is to let the game dictate,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “I think we’re all capable of doing multiple things, we’re all interchangeable so I think that’s what makes us hard to guard. We can all interchange in terms of coming off the ball, screens or someone cutting or someone in the corner. That’s what makes us dangerous. As we get better, I think that rhythm and the flow as we continue to be in multiple spots, makes it harder to guard different guys in different spots.”

That group includes Hayward whose left foot will continue to be monitored closely by the Celtics, all aware of just how important he is to the team’s chances at success regardless of how much - or little - he plays going forward. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Friday at 3:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Tommy have the call at 4 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.