Gordon Hayward’s gruesome ankle injury may not be as bad as it looked. In fact, there’s ‘cautious optimism’ that the Boston Celtics star might actually make a comeback late in the season, if his rehabilitation goes smoothly.

Chris Mannix of the Vertical at Yahoo Sports provided the latest development on Hayward’s injury late Tuesday, stating that doctors found a clean break of the tibia with no damage in surrounding tissue. In her article on the Boston Journal, Dr. Jessica Flynn also predicted a much earlier return date for Hayward after four to six months of intense rehab.

Celtics choose safe approach

Then again, it’s very likely the Celtics will shut down Hayward for the rest of the season, whether or not his injury heals earlier than expected. Boston cannot afford Hayward to aggravate the injury and compromise his long-term career by rushing him back to the floor.

After undergoing a successful surgery on Friday, his agent, Mark Bartelstein confirmed Hayward will sit the entire 2017-18 NBA season, though he’s confident his client will regain his All-Star form upon his return.

The Celtics signed Hayward to a four-year, $128 million deal this offseason, hoping the former Butler standout will play a big role in the franchise’s title resurgence. With their starting small forward out for the season, the Celtics will be eligible for a Disabled Player Exception worth $8.5 million.

They can use the exception to sign a free agent or trade for a player with one year remaining on his deal. Moreover, the Celtics can also recoup 11.4 million on insurance, which is 39 percent of the $29.2 million the team owes Hayward this season.

More injuries on opening week

Jeremy Lin will also miss the entire 2017-18 NBA season after suffering a ruptured patellar tendon of his right knee.

Lin hurt his knee while driving hard to the basket in the fourth quarter of the Brooklyn Nets’ 140-131 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. The 29-year-old point guard was expected to form a dynamic backcourt tandem with D’Angelo Russell for the Nets, but the prospect of a season-ending injury only means more playing time for Allen Crabbe and second-year guard Caris LeVert.

On a positive note, San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard is set to return from a quad injury soon. In an interview on Sports Illustrated, Dr. Armin Tehrany said he expects the two-time Defensive Player of the Year to make a full recovery since his injury isn’t serious.

The renowned orthopedic doctor added that Leonard’s tendinopathy rarely requires surgery and a common treatment known as R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) usually remedies the affected area. The Spurs were off to a strong start, defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-99 without Kawhi’s service.