After suffering a devastating broken ankle mere minutes into the start of the 2017-18 regular season, Boston Celtics star Gordon Hayward is back to a point the average pick-up basketball player never reaches: He can dunk a basketball.
Speaking to Boston.com’s Nicole Yang, Hayward provided an update on his recovery.
“I dunked the basketball for the first time off my left foot without pain last week,” Hayward said. “That felt awesome. I went into it very soft and gingerly, and after I did it, I was like, ‘OK, that didn’t hurt it all.’ I did it again, and it felt good.”
Hayward also told Yang he can run full speed straight ahead and come to a stop, and he can do some lateral movements. Cutting and moving side-to-side are two of the final — and most important — steps he can take in his recovery. Both will test and stress his ankle, and when it can withstand that stress, there won’t be much keeping him off the court.
The Celtics have said repeatedly they expect Hayward to be back at full strength at some point in August, well before training camp. That he can comfortably get off the floor to dunk and do some lateral motions would seem to indicate he’s on track.
A side note: The fact that Hayward still can’t 100 percent slide his feet in a defensive stance on July 20 should really hammer home how unlikely his return during the 2017-18 season always was. Believing Hayward could return and play a few minutes off the bench in the playoffs was always wishful thinking. For most of the regular season, when asked if he might return, Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens seemed to be hedging ever so slightly. But by the end of the year, and especially after Kyrie Irving was ruled out for the season, it was clear Hayward’s return would have to wait until fall.