Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving and forward Gordon Hayward are both healthy enough to be full participants when training camp opens next month, according to general manager Danny Ainge.
“I don’t want to hype it up too much, but I’m saying that if our training camp were starting today, that they would be here today going full speed,” Ainge told ESPN on Monday. “It’s not like they need an extra month. I think that they know they have an extra month, so they are sort of pacing themselves. They’re playing as if to build up to that opening day of training camp (Sept. 26).”
The timeline fits what head coach Brad Stevens anticipated in June, when he said both players would be going “if not full tilt, then pretty close to full tilt” by the end of July or early August.
Ainge said he expects both players to report to the team’s facility in the first week of September and quickly work up to full team drills.
“I think it’s just a matter of, if they’re not playing five-on-five now, then it’s only because they want it more of a controlled environment, I guess,” Ainge told ESPN. “They’re doing everything — dunking the basketball off both legs and playing one-on-one live and jumping and cutting and defending. I’m excited for them.”
Irving is returning from knee surgery that ended his season in March, while Hayward is coming back from a dislocated left ankle and tibia fracture he sustained just five minutes into his debut with the Celtics. Hayward experienced pain in the back of the ankle during his recovery, but Stevens said that discomfort went away with the removal of a plate that was inserted in the initial surgery.
Ainge also said the Celtics will lean on their deep roster — which helped them reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last year — to work Irving and Hayward in slowly as they return. With the two All-Stars back in the fold, he has big hopes for the team this year but also is trying to manage expectations.
“I’m really excited about the upcoming season with (Irving and Hayward),” Ainge said. “Obviously, there’s a transition from rehabbing to playing one-on-one to playing three-on-three to five-on-five and then playing NBA basketball, so I don’t want to build up expectations too high. I think there will be a little bit of an adjustment once that last phase is made.
“But physically, they look great, and I think they’re very excited about the upcoming year.”
Hayward, 28, averaged career highs of 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game during his last full season, when he was a first-time All-Star with the Utah Jazz in 2016-17. He joined the Celtics — and Stevens, his college coach while at Butler — via free agency last summer.
Irving, 26, is entering his second full season with the Celtics after arriving via trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers last August. He averaged 24.4 points, 5.1 assists and a career-high 3.8 rebounds in 60 games before his surgery last season.
The five-time All-Star could become a free agent next summer if he opts out of his current deal. He said this offseason that he has no plans to sign an extension before next summer.
—Field Level Media