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Gordon Hayward is close to shedding walking boot

Hayward is steps away from beginning his physical rehabilitation.

NBA: Boston Celtics-Press Conference Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday afternoon, NBA twitter went into a minor frenzy after Robyn Hayward posted a picture on Instagram of Celtics forward Gordon Hayward without his walking boot. The photograph sparked speculation that Hayward may be ahead of his recovery schedule, which snowballed into guesswork about his eventual return date.

After last night’s 97-90 win over the Dallas Mavericks, Brad Stevens was asked about Hayward’s bootless photograph.

“[Hayward] wears the boot until a certain time every evening and then he can take it off,” Stevens noted. “When he moves around, he can move around with a brace that's like a boot. He is progressing and doing what he can do, what he's been cleared to do. It's been going well.”

This morning, Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge talked about Hayward’s recovery on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

“He’s progressing along. He can take the boot off for short periods of time,” Ainge told the “Toucher and Rich" show. “But he's doing really well. His therapy is going great. He's right on schedule. He’s doing sometimes two workouts a day and trying to get stronger. The next phases are getting out of the boot completely, but I still think that he’s a couple weeks away from being permanently out of the boot.”

In October, Ainge said that he was “not counting on” Hayward to return this season, and Hayward’s agent doubled down on that notion. The Celtics have been prudent not to place any public expectations on Hayward’s eventual return, and Ainge reiterated last week that there is “no set timeline”.

Still, Ainge’s sentiments today were more optimistic than he’s been over the past few months.

The Celtics haven’t missed a beat despite Hayward’s absence, but that won’t stop fans from speculating about adding him for the postseason run. We’re still months away from getting a clear prognosis on when Hayward will hit the parquet again, but the fact that Ainge says he’s “right on schedule” is encouraging. Hayward is 51 days into his recovery.

Ainge’s full interview with Toucher and Rich can be heard here.