Celtics’ Hayward close to removing walking boot

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward says he intends to be ready for the season-opening game.

Boston Celtics small forward Gordon Hayward will soon no longer need his walking boot as he begins the early stages of his rehab from a fractured left ankle, according to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

Hayward suffered a dislocated left ankle and fractured tibia on opening night against the Cleveland Cavaliers and told reporters in November he won’t return this season.

“He’s progressing along,” Ainge said. “He can take the boot off for short periods of time. 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.”

Hayward signed a four-year, $128 million free agent deal with the Celtics over the summer after spending seven years with the Utah Jazz. The 27-year-old has career averages of 15.6 points.

The Celtics own the best record in the NBA at 22-4.