Gordon Hayward not only returned to the court to help the Celtics grab a much-needed win Saturday night, he announced that he will remain with the team for the remainder of its playoff run, writes Mark Medina of USA Today.
Hayward had been planning to be with his wife when she gives birth to their fourth child sometime this month. But he said that changed after his he left Orlando to visit her while he was sidelined with a sprained ankle.
“A little bit lucky that Robyn was already there in (Indianapolis), so I was able to be at home and get great treatment,” Hayward said. “But that wasn’t in the plan. Robyn could be having a baby at any point in time. It’s probably something I’ll be here. By the time I get back, I might miss the birth if she goes in and she rushes to the hospital. We discussed it and we prayed about it. I think it’s probably best if I stay here and help our team.”
The Celtics weren’t sure that Hayward would be available Saturday until he went through pre-game warm-ups. He told the training staff that his ankle felt good, and he was cleared to play.
Although coach Brad Stevens had planned to limit Hayward’s court time in his first game in a month, the forward wound up playing 31 minutes and contributing six points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. He provided an emotional lift to a team that had been reeling after blowing big leads in the first two games of the series and went through a locker room meltdown after Game 2.
“He did what he’s done all year. He didn’t shoot it quite as much, but he is a stabilizing force for our team,” Stevens said. “He just can make the right play and make a play for somebody else at the right time.”
Hayward suffered the injury, which was diagnosed as a Grade III ankle sprain, during Boston’s playoff opener against the Sixers. He left for Indiana soon afterward and returned on September 6. After four days of quarantine, Hayward spent most of his time in the gym and the pool working to get back into game shape.
“It definitely felt weird out there,” he told Sam Amick of The Athletic. “It’s been four or five weeks … since I played basketball, so I think it was really fun to be back out there with the team, with the guys. I just tried to impact our team in winning ways — whatever I could do. The first five minutes, I was gassed. I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle’s pretty sore. But I’m just proud of the way we fought, and proud of us getting the win.”