"You always think about the worst-case scenario," Hayward said Wednesday night when he addressed the media for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his left hand before the Boston Celtics hosted the Washington Wizards at TD Garden.
"Certainly on the play, I didn't know exactly what happened. But I heard it and felt it, and knew something immediately was wrong. That's why I signaled, 'Let's go check this out.'"
It turned out Hayward, 29, would need surgery, which he successfully underwent late Monday afternoon in New York. While he will have to sit out for approximately another six weeks because of it, Hayward said he was relieved his absence wouldn't be significantly longer.
"It's hard to know [how long you'll be out]," Hayward said. "After looking at the X-ray, it was clear as day that it was broken. Nowadays, you don't know what that necessarily means ... it depends on where the break is and how long it can be.
"I'm just happy that I relatively got good news, and I shouldn't be that long."
Hayward, who watched from the bench in street clothes Wednesday night when the Celtics beat the Wizards 140-133, has been Boston's most consistent player to start the season, averaging 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists in eight games this season for the Celtics, while shooting 55.5% overall and 43.3% from 3-point range. He has been praised by scouts who've seen him play in the early going and has benefited from an offseason fully dedicated to working on his body and game, rather than rehabbing as he was last summer.
That rehab was necessary because of the extended absence Hayward dealt with from the gruesome leg and ankle injuries he suffered six minutes into his first game as a Celtic -- the season opener of the 2017-18 campaign in Cleveland against the Cavaliers. That injury led to two different surgeries and the better part of a year battling just to get back onto the court -- followed by an uneven 2018-19 season as he tried to shake the rust off from his extended time away.
After going through that, Hayward admitted that this recovery -- while certainly not fun -- isn't nearly as daunting to have to face.
"It's a drop in a bucket for sure," he said. "Obviously frustrated. It's going to ... it sucks watching, and not being able to go out there and play, especially with the start that we've had.
"I think this time around, I'll be able to run around, use my legs still, maintain my conditioning, which I'm very thrilled about, and then be around the team, too. And kinda stay involved, which is good."
Hayward was sporting a colorful splint -- as well as being adorned with stickers of puppies and unicorns -- thanks to the artistic talents of his daughters. But he said he was happy that he didn't have to wear a cast, and that he'll be going back to New York on Friday to make sure everything is healing as expected. But he said he was happy about the fact it was his left hand, so he could continue shooting while he's out, and that he can also keep his conditioning in place while he waits to return to the court.
He also said that a pin and plate were put in his hand in order to help speed the process up -- and even cracked a joke about that being a good thing, after he needed a second surgery on his ankle last year.
"They put a pin and a plate in there, but that supposedly makes it stronger and makes it heal faster," he said, before adding with a smile, "I think that's a good thing this time around."
As for how long Hayward will actually be out, he said he isn't focusing on a timetable, but rather sticking to the plan the Celtics have laid out for him to recover and get back on the court.
"I think we'll take it, as cliché as it sounds, we'll take it day by day and week by week," he said. "It's one of those things that once the bone is healed, then it's kind of how much can you tolerate and how well does my body handle with the swelling, kind of how well it takes ramping up activities and doing different basketball things.
"Honestly, looking at the plan that we set up today and just kind of attacking each day. Hopefully I'll be back sooner rather than later."