Celtics' Hayward says he's open to returning this season

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BOSTON (AP) — Celtics guard Gordon Hayward is open to playing this season, but said Friday it will depend on how fast he is able to heal and show progress as he works his way back from a broken left ankle.

Hayward was at TD Garden for Boston's matchup with the Utah Jazz, the team he left this past summer in free agency after seven seasons to sign a four-year, $128 million contract with the Celtics. He was injured in Boston's season opener at Cleveland.

"My mind is open to that," Hayward said of the possibility of returning to game action before season's end. "I'm trying to get back as fast as I can. It all depends on how I heal, and taking it day-by-day, goal by goal. We'll see what happens."

Wednesday marked a milestone in Hayward's recovery process, when he was able to shed the walking boot he's been using since his surgery in October. He will continue to wear a protective brace during the rehab process.

He said he doesn't know how long he will have to wear the brace. But he said he is now allowed to do more shooting and begin working more on mobility.

"I don't know that timetable to be honest," he said of how long he'll be in the brace. "I'm focused on each day, each week. I know I just got in this, so it's probably a little while. Probably a little while longer."

Hayward said the plan was always to begin attending games regularly once he got out of the walking boot and into the brace. It just happened to coincide with Friday's matchup with Utah.

He had dinner with former Jazz teammate Joe Ingles on Thursday and planned to check in with his former teammates and coaches before they left Boston.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder said there are no sour feelings about Hayward's decision to leave in free agency.

"I think everybody understands the decision that he made," Snyder said. "So to see him get hurt, it was hard. I felt horrible for him. I think most of the guys on our team reached out. I know I did. I think he was appreciative of that. At this point we wish him well in his rehab. We hope that he's back soon. At the same time our group has moved on, too."

Hayward said he remains secure in his decision to leave the team that originally drafted him 2010.

"No, I don't regret anything," he said. "I unfortunately got injured, but happy to be here in Boston and happy to be a part of this team."

He said coach Brad Stevens' approach of trying to get better daily in all things basketball related has helped him in his rehab process.

"He set the tone with that in college," Hayward said. "It's about getting better each day. The same thing for me. I'm trying to be better than I was yesterday. It's a long process. It's a grind. It's pretty tough to do every day. But that's my job right now. My job is trying to rehab and get better."


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