Hayward’s road back in dunk-and-recover mode

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

Apparently, Gordon Hayward’s recovery from the devastating injury to his left ankle six minutes into Game 1 of last season in Cleveland is coming along quite nicely.

The Boston Celtics forward, who missed the entire season after suffering the injury against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, hit a milestone every basketball player can appreciate.

“I dunked the basketball for the first time off my left foot — without pain — last week,” Hayward told Nicole Yang of Boston.com. “That felt awesome. I went into it very soft and gingerly, and after I did it, I was like, ‘OK, that didn’t hurt it all.’ I did it again, and it felt good.”

The former Utah Jazz standout said he’s also able to “do a full sprint linearly,” meaning he can sprint in a straight line and then come to a stop, according to Yang’s report. On the basketball court, Hayward said he’s able to do some lateral movements, like cutting left and right. Any activity without pain is “always exciting,” he said.

According to the report, Hayward has yet to play 5-on-5 basketball, but hopes to do so next month as he continues to work his way back.

After the initial surgery to repair the ankle, Hayward had a second surgery in May.

“I had worked my way up, and then did that second surgery and got knocked back down again,” Hayward said. “I had to work back up.”

He explained why the second surgery took place.

“The second surgery went really well,” he said. “I basically got everything removed from my ankle. I’ve been feeling a lot better. My ankle has just reacted to things differently and with less pain. The stuff that was in there, it was just kind of irritating it. It’s good to have it removed.”

Hayward said the long road back to full recovery is eased with each new checkpoint that is reached.

“Leading up to doing something new, I think I’m anxious and nervous a little bit, and, subconsciously, I think a little scared,” he told Yang. “A lot of times, when I do something new, I think I like to just protect [my ankle], and I don’t go as hard as I probably could. After I do something a couple times, my brain and my body kind of tells me, ‘OK, it’s fine. You can do this again.’

“The bone is strong, everything is strong, and then it takes a little bit, but then it’s kind of normal.”

Hayward is very much looking forward to next season, the first in which he will play as a teammate of five-time All-Star Kyrie Irving. They played less than six minutes together before Hayward suffered the gruesome injury in Cleveland.

“I feel like we’re in like a time warp to about a year ago,” Hayward said. “The team went back to the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m joining the team. I get a chance to play with Kyrie and the young talent. I’m still just as excited.

“I think last year we had a good training camp, and we were starting to gel a little bit and starting to find that rhythm, so I’m looking forward to getting back to do that same thing again.”