The Celtics ruled out rookie guard Marcus Smart from playing in Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls on early Thursday.
The 21-year-old returned to practice on Wednesday after missing two-plus weeks of action with a sprained left ankle and bone bruise. Smart was only able to take part in a portion of the session however, as he continues to work his way back from the injury. The Celtics have gone just 2-5 in games he has missed.
Smart was expected to miss just 2-3 weeks after suffering the ankle injury back on Nov. 7 against the Indiana Pacers, but Celtics head coach Brad Stevens insisted at Wednesday’s practice the team would not rush the no. 6 overall pick back into game action.
“I think, obviously, you want him to be as close to pre-injury [condition] as possible, otherwise, he shouldn’t be a full go,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s practice. “Is there a transition period? Absolutely. But sometimes in those first couple days, you’re so excited to be back out that you actually play pretty darn well. So it’s just a matter of him getting back out here. It’s more about the conditioning than anything else right now, just because he hasn’t done anything on the court, physically as far as 5-on-5 in the last three weeks.”
Stevens has also been encouraged about how hard Smart has worked during the recovery process, which makes him think he will be returning sooner rather than later.
“He’s done the rehab diligently and done it well, and he’s stuck to the game plan as far as coming in here multiple times a day and going above and beyond,” Stevens told reporters Wednesday. “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do and this is the appropriate time frame.”
Even though Smart may be a few more days away from returning to the hardwood, his teammates are already excited about the prospect of having his defensive energy back on the floor.
“It help not only me, but it helps our team out,” Avery Bradley said of Smart’s impending return. “He brings that intensity on the defensive end and the offensive end. He brings a lot to our team and we’re excited to have him back on the floor with us.”
“The way he can put pressure on guards bring it up the floor [will help],” Jeff Green added. “He was doing a great job of that before he got hurt and hopefully he can continue to be that effective on the defensive end. He’s been great for us, and hopefully he’ll continue to play at a high level.”
In five regular season games, Smart is averaging 6.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 steals in just over 20 minutes of play per game.