Boston Celtics small forward Gordon Hayward said his ankle is "getting better" after rebounding from a scoreless performance against the San Antonio Spurs to tally 35 points in Wednesday's victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Hayward, who suffered a gruesome leg injury in the Celtics' 2017-18 season opener that forced him to miss the entire season, said he expects to make steady progress throughout the campaign, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com.
"I think it's slowly getting there," he said. "Like, I think my lateral movement, it's so much better since the beginning of the season. But I think that's pretty close to where it was. I think vertically I still have a little ways to go. My ankle is a little sore right now."
Hayward has struggled to find his shot for most of the season. He's shooting 42 percent from the field and 32.6 percent from three-point range, which are numbers that are well below his career averages. He's put up a mundane 11.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 33 appearances.
His inability to find an offensive rhythm forced him out of Boston's starting lineup, but head coach Brad Stevens can sense a hot streak on the horizon, per Bontemps.
"He's going to make a lot of shots, because he's got a lot due," Stevens said Wednesday. "He was disappointed in how he shot the ball, obviously, in San Antonio and got back in the gym this morning. You could tell he was going to play pretty well."
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Boston has managed to post a 22-15 record despite Hayward's lack of consistent involvement, but getting him back on track will be key to a potential NBA Finals run.
The 28-year-old Indianapolis native averaged a career-best 21.9 points to go along with 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 2016-17, his final season with the Utah Jazz. That helped him earn his first All-Star selection.
His performance against the Wolves showed he can still play at that level. Now the Celtics will hope he starts putting up those type of stat lines on a more regular basis as the ankle continues to improve.