NBA playoffs are 11 weeks away - can Gordon Hayward make it back?

There is always a lot of secrecy surrounding injuries in the NBA, so what follows is based on what I have seen directly with Gordon Hayward's rehab (no hearsay included), and my experience in rehabbing client injuries. I tend to be analytical, so bear with me. When rehabbing client injuries, I watch their movements to gauge progress. I have repeatedly viewed the video below showing Gordon Hayward shooting stationary three-pointers. Prior to that, I viewed a close-up on Hayward's injured left ankle barefoot and without a brace. This is what I see from it and why I will go out on a bit of a limb in reference to his chances of returning this season.

Take a distant look at the left ankle
. Even at this distance, I see a small amount of swelling and a very small amount of ankle distortion in the left/front of the left ankle. I expected to see more distortion. Great sign.

Now get a closer look. The slight swelling and distortion are more visible. They both seem minimal to me at this point in the recovery.

In the video, you can see the unobtrusive brace on the left ankle. On every shot, his left heel raises equally with the right, despite the minor restriction of the brace. His feet never leave the floor while shooting, but his legs are involved in the shots. He moves slightly forwards and backwards, but not laterally, which is to be expected. There is no hesitation in his movements. He has improved to the point of being able to do most tasks that the average guy-on-the-street can perform. But Gordon is not average. He is an elite athlete.

He will move on to non-contact activities including running, movement drills and actual jump shooting. Non-contact, one-on-one scrimmages may be the next step. This is where the the contact comes into play, and the danger of further injury. That means contact drills with some level of control and finally full-court, 5-on-5 scrimmages. At this level, things get dicey. Planting of Hayward's left ankle improperly, landing on someone else's foot after taking a jumper or coming down with a rebound can mean aggravating the injury.

The Celtics front office insists that Gordon is not expected back this season and that is the right thing to say. Hayward is saying the same, but it doesn't mean it won't happen. From what I have seen so far, his rehab has gone very, very well. Much better than I would have expected, but once again, there is very little verbal or written information to work from.

With 11 weeks to go before the playoffs, and assuming no significant setbacks, it appears that Hayward can possibly be back in time, but the question still remains whether he and the Celtics will take that path. As a 20-year Police Investigator, many people refused to talk to me, and many of those that did, lied to me. So I will go with my experience and what I see. From my viewpoint, it is looking better for Gordon to return for the playoffs, but that still doesn't mean that he will.

Follow Tom at @TomLandHC

Photo via Brian Babineau/Getty Images
Video via VisionReposts