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 Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.