Celtics' Hayward says depression worse than physical pain caused by injury

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Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward said the mental pain of being sidelined has exceeded the physical trauma of his gruesome ankle injury.

A high-profile recruit from the Utah Jazz, NBA All-Star Hayward's debut lasted just five minutes into the season when he suffered a dislocated ankle and broken tibia on October 17.

While the physical pain was immense, Hayward said something else has hurt even worse.

"Definitely the depression," Hayward said on the Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday. "It's been painful, but it's nothing like sitting around watching the team you were supposed to be playing with this year.

"I signed to play for the Boston Celtics this year now to only sit and watch the Boston Celtics this year. That part has been difficult and much more difficult to deal with than the pain."

Hayward signed a four-year $128million contract this offseason to be reunited with his former Butler head coach Brad Stevens.

The first year of his contract will likely be spent on the bench, but Hayward is still holding out hope for a late return this season.

"I work out every day to try to increase my range of motion and increase my strength in my legs so that I can be back as fast as I can," he said. "Whether that's this year or this summer or next year, I will just let that happen. But for sure, as a competitor, I'm just trying to come back faster than anyone has ever done it."

The Celtics (26-7) lead the Eastern Conference by two-and-a-half games over the Cleveland Cavaliers despite suffering through a number of key injuries.

Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris (still injured) have all missed time this season.