Gordon Hayward could be inching closer to a return, but the Boston Celtics enter Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday without him.
Hayward impressed head coach Brad Stevens on Monday in what Stevens said was a “hard workout” in a small group. Hayward hasn’t formally practiced or participated in 5-on-5 drills since he suffered a right ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs on Aug. 17.
Stevens said Hayward looked good but conceded “there’s a big difference between doing that and going into a game.”
Hayward, 30, sustained a Grade III sprain of his ankle while attempting to box out Joel Embiid during Boston’s 109-101 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.
After Hayward jumped for the rebound, he appeared to land on the foot of teammate Daniel Theis. At the time, it was expected Hayward would miss about four weeks.
His availability for potential games in the conference finals or NBA Finals remains undetermined. He averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season.