When Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome injury in the season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers, it led many to assume that it would end the Boston Celtics' chances of competing for a championship this year.
27 games into the campaign, however, the C's are proving those people wrong as they own the league's best record at 22-5 and look like a serious threat to win the east and dethrone the Cavs.
Kyrie Irving has taken on a starring role for Boston and is having an MVP-caliber season. Al Horford is also having one of the best years of his career.
With the Celtics performing so well without Hayward, fans in Beantown are already thinking of how much better they'll be with him in the lineup.
Nobody expects to see the former Utah Jazz man back on the court until next season after he suffered a dislocated ankle and fractured tibia just five minutes into his debut with the team.
But in a recent interview with the Boston Globe, the All-Star offered Boston fans some hope that he may return sooner than expected.
"It's definitely in the back of my mind," he told Adam Himmelsbach. "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."
It was more in hope and optimism rather than expectation on Hayward's part and he immediately cautioned it by saying he won't make a comeback until he is completely healthy and is sure that his leg can handle the physical demands in the NBA.
"I'm making sure that if I come back, I'm 1,000 percent confident in myself and my leg," Hayward said. "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."
This is a slightly surprising update from the small forward as he stated in a Facebook post on November 1 that he wouldn't be ready to play again until next year.
"They [the Celtics] know I will not be back on the court at all this season, but they have been making sure I have every resource I need and are making me feel like I am part of the team," he wrote.
But earlier in the week, general manager Danny Ainge confirmed that the 27-year-old was out of his walking boot and that his rehab was "right on schedule".
It's highly unlikely that the franchise would risk bringing him back later in the year as it would mean he will be thrust into intense games in the playoffs which wouldn't be easy on the back of a long layoff.
It would make more sense for both parties to allow him to take his time and rejoin the team for training camp and pre-season ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.