Gordon Hayward

Here's one aspect of Gordon Hayward's injury that makes Danny Ainge wary

Here's one aspect of Gordon Hayward's injury that makes Danny Ainge wary

Gordon Hayward fracturing his hand isn't the end of the world. The Boston Celtics forward should be back by the end of the calendar year and has endured far worse injuries.

But there's one factor about Hayward's injury that gives Danny Ainge pause, and it involves recent history.

In his weekly interview Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich," the Celtics president of basketball operations explained that Boston's biggest challenge with Hayward's injury won't be losing him for six weeks, but how to re-integrate him when those six weeks are up.

"Gordon has been playing so great. He's our most efficient player, shooting 57 percent from the field, having a terrific year," Ainge said. "So now, other guys have to do more. And so then when Gordon comes back, then other guys get to do less."

Does that scenario ring any bells? It should.

Many believe the genesis of the Celtics' struggles in 2018-19 were injuries to Hayward and Kyrie Irving that kept them out of the 2017-18 playoffs, allowing young players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier to take on much bigger roles.

When Hayward and Irving both returned at full strength last season, the "young guys" had to revert to their previous roles, an adaptation that seemed to splinter the locker room.

That tricky scenario -- specifically how it affects team chemistry -- isn't lost on Ainge.

"I think that (Hayward's injury is) a good opportunity for the guys on our team right now," Ainge said. "And then when Gordon comes back, trying to fit that back in is sometimes a challenge just when he returns to play.

"That's the only bummer about it. We were really developing -- there's been a lot of talk about chemistry on this team and they're great kids, but they're really figuring each other out on the court, too.

"So, now that takes a little bit of a step back, and you try to reinvent the rotations and reinvent everything when you lose a significant player like that."

These Celtics are built much differently than last year's Celtics, starting with Kemba Walker, who carries a strong reputation as an unselfish leader. Boston also has won two straight in Hayward's absence, and the team appears to be enjoying each other's company.

But as Ainge suggests, the real test for this team may come in the days and weeks following Hayward's return.

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Celtics' Gordon Hayward: 'Sucks watching' but hand injury is 'drop in the bucket'

Celtics' Gordon Hayward: 'Sucks watching' but hand injury is 'drop in the bucket'

BOSTON — Boston Celtics swingman Gordon Hayward admitted he’s frustrated to be out with an injury again but knows the fractured hand that will keep him out for the next six weeks is nothing compared to what he’s been through.

"It’s a drop in a bucket, for sure,” said Hayward, meeting with reporters before Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards. "Like I said, happy that it shouldn’t be that long. Obviously frustrated — it sucks watching and not being able to go out there and play, especially with the start that we’ve had. I think this time around, I’ll be able to run around, use my legs still, maintain my conditioning, which I’m very thrilled about and then be around the team, too. And kinda stay involved, which is good.”

Hayward said he’s not in a cast after surgery Monday to repair a fourth metacarpal fracture in his non-shooting hand but instead is wearing a splint that he can remove while doing exercises.

Hayward, playing like an All-Star at the start of the 2019-20 season, hesitated to put a firm timeline on when he hoped to be back. A six-week timeline has him back on the court right before Christmas.

“I think we’ll take it, as cliche as it sounds, we’ll take it day by day and week by week and it’s one of those things that, once the bone is healed, then it’s kind of how much can you tolerate and how well does my body handle with the swelling, kind of how well it takes ramping up activities and doing different basketball things,” said Hayward. "Honestly, looking at the plan that we set up today and just kind of attacking each day. Hopefully, I’ll be back sooner rather than later.”

Hayward said surgeons inserted both a pin and a plate at the fracture to both stabilize and expedite the recovery process. He will not travel at the start of Boston’s upcoming five-game trip out west and will have a follow-up with the hand surgeon in New York while waiting for clearance to travel.

Hayward appeared in good spirits despite the injury. His splint is already covered in drawings from his two oldest daughters, Charlotte and Bernadette. Despite his advice on color choices, he maintained a “Daddy’s Always Happy” face when detailing what his daughters sketched.

“Some of my favorite things: Puppies, unicorns, rainbows,” deadpanned Hayward. "I tried to get them to not use purple and go with some green but they were pretty adamant about the colors they picked. So I guess an artist is going to be an artist.”

Hayward did remain mystified just exactly how the injury occurred in the Celtics' victory in San Antonio on Saturday.

"I’ve watched the play and when you watch it in slow-motion it’s like, ‘What happened?’” said Hayward. "I don’t even think anything should have happened. Doesn’t look like it’s that bad at all.

"I think it must have been, initially, I think I must have hit [LaMarcus Aldridge with Hayward’s fingertips] or something and the force kinda just traveled through and then broke right in there. That’s my guess. I don’t know.”

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics' Gordon Hayward shares update after undergoing surgery on fractured hand

Celtics' Gordon Hayward shares update after undergoing surgery on fractured hand

Gordon Hayward underwent successful surgery to repair his fractured left hand on Monday. Now, the Celtics will have to wait approximately six weeks for him to return.

Hayward is in good hands until then, as he'll be cared for by his three loving daughters. The C's forward provided his first post-surgery update Tuesday on Instagram -- a photo with his daughters and a caption that reads, “Thank you to everyone for all the support and well wishes. I’m home and being well cared for by my three little nurses!”

Check it out below:

In their first game this season without Hayward, the Celtics (8-1) edged out the Mavericks, 116-106. They'll look to keep it rolling and remain at the top of the Eastern Conference standings when Hayward returns around Christmastime.

Before his injury, Hayward looked to be back to his All-Star self averaging 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists.

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