It’s nearing 10 p.m. on Friday at The Local, and the crowd at this quaint Wellesley restaurant has thinned as families head into the chilly night with to-go boxes. The bar is busy but not packed, and patrons are paying little mind to the Celtics game against the Spurs that is glowing on televisions above the shelves of liquor. But at a small, square table in a quiet back corner, one man is quite interested. When Gordon Hayward signed a four-year, $128 million contract with the Celtics last July, he dreamed of playing in games like this one. But less than five minutes into his Oct. 17 debut against the Cavaliers, he went up for an alley-oop and landed awkwardly, suffering a gruesome left ankle dislocation-fracture that would sideline him indefinitely. So now he is here at this dimly lit restaurant, taking occasional sips from a frothy glass of Guinness, and munching on fried pickles that sit in a paper-lined basket. As he watches the game with his longtime trainer, Jason Smeathers, he is thinking about what could have been while also contemplating what’s next. More than 50 days have passed since Hayward suffered his grisly injury, and on this night there are few obvious signs that it happened at all. His cast was replaced by a walking boot after two weeks, and now the walking boot is gradually being phased out in favor of a small, nonintrusive brace, which he is wearing now. Last week, he was told he did not need crutches anymore. On the court, he can now stand still and shoot baskets, a major step after weeks of firing them from a padded chair. As the Celtics stormed to a 22-5 start, it became tantalizing to wonder what they might be with Hayward. And given his consistent progress, and the fact that more than four months remain in the regular season, it is impossible not to wonder if there is a chance, however slim it might be, that he could be back this year. Hayward admits that he thinks about it, too. But he immediately cautions that there can be dangers in looking far ahead. He has made this progress by tackling obstacles one by one, and he knows the last, most massive one remains distant.
Hayward not ruling out possible return this season
Boston Globe | Dec 10