Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward will return to Boston next week and are expected to join their teammates in informal workouts as Celtics players begin pickup play in advance of the late September start of training camp.
Irving and Hayward have been rehabbing this summer from follow-up procedures on the injuries that shortened their 2017-18 campaigns and prevented them from playing in Boston’s surge to the cusp of the NBA Finals.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told ESPN on Monday that both Irving (knee) and Hayward (ankle) appear at full health and are ready for the new season.
“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 said. “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].”
Celtics players have expressed excitement in starting 5-on-5 work after Boston brought back much of the same roster from last year’s squad that, even without Irving and Hayward, took the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.
“They’ll both be here within the next week or so; by the time Labor Day is over, they will all be playing 5-on-5,” Ainge said of Irving and Hayward. “I think it’s just a matter of, if they’re not playing 5-on-5 now, then it’s only because they want it more of a controlled environment, I guess. 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.”
Ainge said the team will carefully ramp up activity for Irving and Hayward during camp and that the emergence of Boston’s younger players should ease the burden on the returning stars early in the new season.
But there’s an obvious excitement for the Celtics in having their team whole again for the first time since the 2017-18 opening night in Cleveland.
“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 3-on-3 to 5-on-5 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.”