Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward took another step in his recovery from the fractured tibia and dislocated ankle he suffered in the 2017-18 NBA season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 17 and was seen without a walking boot.
Chris Forsberg of ESPN reported the news Wednesday, noting there is "no guarantee he stays out" of the boot if his foot doesn't react positively.
"Today has been awesome without the boot," Hayward said, per Forsberg.
Celtics News from Boston.com shared an image of Hayward without his boot:
Boston signed Hayward to a four-year deal in July with the hope he would help it surpass the Cavaliers and challenge for a spot in the 2018 NBA Finals after he averaged a career-high 21.9 points per game in 2016-17 with the Utah Jazz, and he hasn't given up the possibility of a comeback this season, per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe:
"It's definitely in the back of my mind. I'm definitely pushing to get back as fast as I can, while making sure that I still have a lot of good years of basketball in me. And coming back early and hurting something else is not part of that plan. So I'm making sure that if I come back, I'm 1,000 percent confident in myself and my leg. I hope more than anything I can play this season. That would be awesome. But that's not something I'm stressing about. I'm stressing about what I can do today to help myself get better."
Youngsters Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have filled in admirably for Hayward on the wing and provided support for Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. As a result, Boston is still on the short list of title contenders in the early going with a 23-6 record and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
While the Celtics have proved capable of competing against top-notch competition without Hayward, the forward's return would be a significant boost for Boston's potential Eastern Conference Finals rematch against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.