Wednesday was a good day for the Boston Celtics.
Not only did they take down the Denver Nuggets by the score of 124-118, but one of their most important players took a massive step forward.
Celtics fans might even be more happy about this than their team's victory, too.
Since Gordon Hayward suffered one of the most gruesome in-game injuries ever seen in the world of sports in the season opener, he has made strides in his recovery.
On Wednesday, he took perhaps his biggest step since undergoing surgery to repair his fractured ankle.
At a community event at the Boys & Girl’s Club of Boston, Hayward walked in to play some video games with the kids. However, he looked noticeably different without his protective boot on.
"The process is always fluid and can change at any time, but, for me, today was the day where I walk around without the boot at all," Hayward said, per ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. "And so, I'm going to try to move forward without the boot. Depending on how my foot reacts, how much activity I'm able to do on it without it being sore, I could move back into the boot or I could never look back and never see the boot again.”
"I'm just taking it day by day; today has been awesome so far without the boot,” he said. It hasn’t even been two months since the injury occurred.
Recently, Hayward was seen taking shots from a seated position and he has been doing various low-resistance workouts in his recovery. He credits having a strong support system around him for his impressive progression so far.
"I think I'm a goal-oriented type of person. So I set my sights on a [short-term] goal and just focus on that until that goal is completed," Hayward explained. "I have a great group of people around me; the Celtics' staff has been phenomenal, accommodating to everything that I need. My trainer [Jason Smeathers] is here, my wife [Robyn] at home, everybody is keeping me motivated and making sure that I'm sticking with protocol. It's definitely like a team thing for me. I have a lot of people that are helping me. That makes it easier.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked about Hayward’s milestone before Wednesday night’s game.
"It's another box to check," he told reporters. "There's a big difference between getting out of the boot and playing in an NBA game, though. So he's got a long way to go. But it's good that he has these things as goals, and he keeps checking them off. And he's working really diligently at it. And he feels good about that. So that's a good thing.”
Although there's still a long way to go in his recovery, the Celtics haven’t officially labeled the All-Star forward out for the rest of the year. Since Boston is 24-6 and has been the best team in the Eastern Conference so far this season, nothing is off the table. If they're able to make a deep playoff run and Hayward is back at full strength, there’s no saying that he couldn’t attempt a comeback in the quest for Boston’s 18th NBA title.