Next month critical in Celtics Gordon Hayward's rehab

I listened to Celtics boss Danny Ainge's appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich podcast as he was first questioned about the Marcus Smart hand-injury incident and the buyout of Greg Monroe, and Danny certainly "circled the wagons" on those topics, saying nothing that we didn't already know. When Ainge chooses his words that carefully, we have to wonder why.

He was a bit freer with his responses relative to Gordon Hayward's rehab from the severe ankle injury, but not much more. Ainge did indicate that Gordon has been wanting to do more but is being held back by the doctors to ensure that everything has healed properly.

Danny indicated that Gordon's next step is actual running on the AlterG treadmill. This is a big step since it introduces impact into the equation. To be technical, even though the forces transmitted to the ankle joint will be reduced via the AlterG, this may be the first time that his previously-injured left foot leaves the surface of the treadmill and returns to the belt. To leave myself at the mercy of my fellow geeks out there, think of it as running on the moon at reduced gravity.

Danny also mentioned work on the basketball court including getting full range of motion on toe lifts and doing one-step, side-to-side movements, which would be the rudimentary start of the movement drills I have previously mentioned. Hayward will be running on the AlterG with a major weight reduction at first, possibly as much as an 80% reduction - an estimate based on virtually no forthcoming information, and then progress to running with no assist at all. Jumping, more intricate movement drills, one-on-one scrimmages and then full-court 5-on-5 should follow with no setbacks.

So as Danny stated, this month is critical. Running, even on the AlterG, will be the first true impact the left ankle has experienced. The lateral movements will also subject the ankle to a different type of impact. It all comes down to how Gordon's left ankle reacts to the added stress that will be placed on it.

Despite the protests from the Celtics organization, I still rate Hayward's chances of returning this season as significant, one step up from slim several weeks ago. I will not be relying on Danny Ainge for a wealth of information on the progress. As a Police Investigator, I got more from murder suspects than Toucher and Rich got from him on the situations of Marcus, Gordon and Greg Monroe.

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Photo via Steven Senne/AP Photo