The Boston Celtics are still one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference title this season despite losing Gordon Hayward during their first game of the season. The Celtics have not ruled out Hayward for the rest of the season. But will the superstar forward recover in time for the playoffs?

Hayward doing light shooting in practice

Hayward suffered a gruesome ankle injury during their opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers [VIDEO]. It was feared that the 27-year-old might miss the entirety of the season, considering how bad his ankle looked on opening night.

While the Celtics have not released official updates on Hayward’s condition, there are speculations the former Utah Jazz superstar might eventually return this season.

According to ESPN, Hayward is now doing light shooting in practice without ankle brace three months after the surgery.

Brad Stevens tempers expectations on Gordon Hayward’s return

While there are signs Hayward will consider coming back later in the season, Celtics [VIDEO] head coach Brad Stevens tempered expectations. Stevens insisted that since the incident on opening night, he has considered Hayward out for the rest of the season, and the stance has not changed.

Stevens confirmed that Hayward is now doing some light shooting in practice, Mass Live reported. However, the 41-year-old coach insisted that All-Star forward is nowhere near to returning this season.

“We don't anticipate him being back this season,” Stevens said. “He makes a lot of shots standing still. I mean, a lot. Like, he's a heck of a standstill shooter now.

And he's really good in a chair too. But nothing new.”

Hayward signed a four-year, $127.83 million deal with the Celtics last summer after spending his first sevens season in league with the Jazz. The former Butler standout also considered returning to the Jazz and signing with the Miami Heat, who made a strong push to acquire the Indianapolis standout.

Before hitting free agency, Hayward had his best year last season, as he averaged 21.9 points on top of 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 73 games. He helped the Jazz reach the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, where they were swept by eventual champions Golden State Warriors in four games.

Without Hayward, the Celtics have managed to become the top team in the Eastern Conference in the first half of the season. They have a 35-15 record – a game ahead of the Toronto Raptors and five games ahead of the Cavaliers.