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Celtics coach Brad Stevens weighs in on Gordon Hayward, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Rudy Gobert

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens calls to his players during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies in Boston, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The game has been circled since the schedule came out last summer, and even though Gordon Hayward won’t be making his return to Vivint Smart Home Arena on Wednesday night, it’s not sapping the ESPN-televised matchup of much interest.

Subplots abound for tonight’s game pitting the Jazz (42-32) and Boston Celtics (51-23) at Vivint Smart Home Arena: two potential candidates for defensive player of the year in Rudy Gobert and Al Horford sharing the floor; two potential coaches of the year in Brad Stevens and Quin Snyder; former Celtics Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko facing their old teammates; Louisville guards Donovan Mitchell and Terry Rozier going head-to-head; Mitchell and Jayson Tatum as two of the most promising rookies in the league. And of course, looming over all of this is Hayward’s shadow, even as he’s off the court.

Stevens, in his fifth year coaching the Celtics, weighed in on several of these hot-button topics at his shootaround media availability, including the rehabilitation of Hayward and where he is this week instead of in Salt Lake City:

(on Gordon Hayward’s progress in his injury rehabilitation)

Stevens: “Progressing well. Still on the Alter-G [weight-supported treadmill] though, not on the court as far as running goes. What I told you a couple weeks ago is the same, he’s got a long way to go still. And we actually organized for him to go down to Miami for a couple of days this week with the ATP tour down there and watch some tennis, which is one of his favorite things to do, and continue his rehab there. We’ve tried throughout his whole process to kind of mix it up for him, just to kind of keep him in a good mindset. He’s in a really good place, it’s just hard. He hasn’t played the whole season, and now as you’re entering playoff time, that’s a whole other level of interest to try to be there and try to help your team. I know it’s hard for him.”

(if Hayward would join the Celtics on the road in the playoffs)

Stevens: “I have no idea. Maybe just to list him as questionable just to mess with people. I don’t know that we’d do that.”

(how Hayward has tried to integrate with the team through his injury)

Stevens: “It’s been very hard because basically everything he needs to do is there in Boston. He hasn’t been able to travel with us. So basically you’re in-and-out throughout the whole course of the season anyways. But he’s been there every day. He’s usually done with most of his training table work and lifting by the time our other guys get there. He has his own shooting time still. He’s still around when we’re there. But it’s a challenge throughout the course of the season, especially when you lose your season six minutes into it.”

CELTICS AT JAZZ<br>When • Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.<br>TV • ESPN

(how Hayward has held up mentally)

Stevens: “He’s a strong kid, but I think like anything else, this is a challenge for anybody. There will be nothing more exciting to him than to get back on the basketball court. That’s one of the things that you really — anybody who’s ever been injured knows that, right? If it’s two weeks, if it’s three weeks, whatever the case may be. But when it’s this long, whenever he gets back out on the court, if he loved it before, he’ll really love it now.”

(Why Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko have been successful in Utah)

Stevens: “Those guys are winners. Those guys are winners, and you know, I think the Jazz are expertly coached. I think all those guys are put in great positions to soar with their strengths. I think Quin’s one of the brightest guys around. When Jae got traded here [to Utah], I thought that this was gonna be perfect. It has been. It’s been fun to watch from afar. Jonas has had a great year. They’ve won a lot of games for us, and they care about winning. I think they’re team-first. So I’m sure they really appreciate the positions they’re being put in.”

(how unique Rudy Gobert is)

Stevens: “He’s pretty tall. He’s pretty unique. Just jams up the paint, allows you to play different ways on defense, and just knowing you’ve got a protector back there. Probably the best guy in the league at it as far as blocking shots at the rim and altering shots at the rim. So it allows you to change up what you’re doing with the other four guys defensively, and they do a good job of that.”

(is Gobert the Defensive Player of the Year)

Stevens: “I don’t watch enough of everybody. I have no idea. I know Al [Horford] has obviously been so important to us.”

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