The silver lining behind the broken left hand suffered by Boston forward Gordon Hayward was that it didn’t get in the way of his conditioning.

After missing 30 days to the injury, he returned Monday night against Cleveland with relatively sound legs – something that only actual basketball could improve. And as it turned out Hayward’s conditioning work had a peripheral benefit – on the coaches who trained with him.

“Even before he could catch, they were doing 5-on-0 with an imaginary ball running up and down the court,” said Coach Brad Stevens. “So they were acting like they were throwing the ball around. So they were moving and getting up and down. And so that’s been great conditioning, and for our coaching staff. And we’re all better for it. Sometimes there’s a silver lining for all the rest of us to get fed so well.”

Hayward didn’t start the night with a minutes restriction, nor was a scripted usage plan a concern. His wind was going to be indication enough.

“We’ll manage that appropriately. There’s no set time, but any time that you’re coming back and not having played an NBA game in four weeks – as you could imagine, you just manage it appropriately,” said Stevens. “He’s done a good job of staying in shape and he’s worked hard at that. But it will still hit him early.

“We’re not going to play him 38 (minutes) tonight by any means but you just have to be alert to that,” said Stevens. “But we will try to get him so that it also gets stretched a little bit, just to get back in it. But I’m not too concerned about that right now. I mean, I think he’ll be fine. He’ll be breathing heavy at the first media timeout but after that he should be good to go.”

Hayward started in a particularly small first five unit, with Marcus Smart missing the game due to an eye infection. He took the floor with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Daniel Theis. Hayward’s success prior to the injury considered, no one expected there to be much of a reacquaintance period.

“He’s one of our leaders. His personality (is important) for sure,” said Walker. “He’s very positive and we need that. The more veteran leaders you have, the more eyes you have out there, the more opinions, it’s just better. He’s one of our main guys, and we’ve been missing him. We were playing really well when he was playing, and hopefully we can get that back. It’s just really good to get him back.”

THERE WERE nicknames, lots of nicknames before Grant Williams hit his first NBA 3-pointer last night, and even the coach got in on the jokes.

“I just got to be legal, 21, and that was Brad’s nickname for me when I got 0 for 21,” Grant Williams said after burying a 25-footer with 4:46 left in the third quarter. “It was Dub when I was 0 for 20. There’s been a lot of nicknames. I forgot what was 0 for 20 – Catch 22, 0 for 22. I think I’m 1 for 23, so I’m fine.”

Some of the nicknames were apparently unmentionable. Tatum, one of the rookie’s steadiest tormentors, tilted his head back and started laughing when asked, before finally saying, “Always good to hit your first three in the NBA. Took him long enough, but he knocked it down.”

Some teammates found an interesting comparison.

“Yeah, we were calling him Ben Simmons,” Jaylen Brown said to significant laughter. “Um, but he knocked one down and Ben knocked one down too, so shout-out to both of those guys.”

The litmus test, of course, came in the team-wide eruption from the bench when the shot fell.

“A lot of it was graphic. Especially Carsen (Edwards), you know,” said Williams. “But outside of that, it was a good moment because they were celebrating me and we were up by 20, so it felt good getting the win as well.”

BULLS: Chicago forward Otto Porter Jr. will miss at least another month because of a broken left foot that was initially diagnosed as a bruise.

The Bulls said the injury was confirmed by Dr. Bob Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist who examined him Monday. The team said the small fracture became clear after repeated imaging over the past five weeks, and Porter will be re-evaluated in four weeks.

Averaging 11.2 points in nine games, he has been sidelined since he was hurt against Atlanta on Nov. 6.

TUESDAY’S GAME
HORNETS 114, WIZARDS 107: Devonte Graham scored 29 points, Miles Bridges hit a big 3-pointer with 7.7 seconds left and Charlotte beat Washington in a game that featured 20 lead changes.

Terry Rozier scored 17 points, Bridges had 16, P.J. Washington added 15 and Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo both had double-doubles.

David Bertans scored a career-high 32 points and made eight 3-pointers for Washington. Rui Hachimura added 18 points and 12 rebounds.

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