Atlantic Notes: Hayward, Ntilikina, Nets, Raptors

Gordon Hayward‘s gruesome ankle injury on opening night was not the storyline people expected coming out LeBron James first head-to-head matchup against Kyrie Irving. Nonetheless, the Celtics‘ prized free agent signing is expected to miss the remainder of the season. While it is not impossible that Hayward returns at the end of the season, him going through rehab successfully is the main goal.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today chronicled what Hayward’s journey back to the hardwood will entail. In earnest, Hayward can expect to be off a basketball court for about six months until he is cleared for basketball-related activities. After surgery, the Celtics forward will not be allowed to put weight on the damaged ankle about 4 to 6 weeks as he gets around with crutches and/or a knee scooter. Zillgitt further explains that initial stages of rehab will include soft-tissue intervention, manual therapy, and aquatic therapy.

About eight weeks in, Hayward should be cleared for light jogging, another checked off milestone. The Celtics did not release a timeline for Hayward returning and it was for good reason, Robert DiGiacomo, the director of the sports rehabilitation center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, told Zillgitt. “We try not to be beholden to timeline,” DiGiacomo said. “Achieving functional milestones is the most important thing.”

Check out other news tidbits around the Atlantic Division:

  • Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks‘ first-round pick this season, has been mentioned as part of a hypothetical trade package for Suns‘ point guard Eric Bledsoe. While reports indicate the Knicks do not want to part with Ntilikina for Bledsoe, the 19-year-old Frenchman’s sole focus is on returning to the court from an ankle injury, Newsday’s Al Iannazzone writes.
  • Aleksandar Vezenkov, the Nets‘ second-round pick (57th overall) this year told Bulgarian media that team officials told him he could be in Brooklyn as soon as next season, per Net Income of NetsDaily. Vezenkov, 22, is a European stash for the Nets who general manager Sean Marks labeled an “elite shooter.”
  • After being swept by the Cavaliers in the playoffs last season, the Raptors‘ offseason strategy was expected to include a lot of changes — and while Toronto didn’t blow up its roster, the team did make significant changes. President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri explained the team’s moves to Chris Mannix of The Vertical. “I think some of the changes we made were radical,” Ujiri said. “We lost Cory Joseph. Patrick Patterson. P.J. Tucker. Those guys were pretty good players. For us to make a change there, to put our young guys on the court, to give them this platform to perform, I think it’s somewhat of a radical change.”
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