Smart Set to Return vs. Bulls’ Elite Backcourt

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WALTHAM, Mass. – Marcus Smart’s return date from the left ankle sprain he suffered during the preseason is no longer in question.

After fully participating in practice Monday afternoon, Smart assuredly stated, “I will be playing Wednesday,” when the Boston Celtics host the Chicago Bulls.

The third-year guard stayed home last week when the Celtics traveled to Chicago and Charlotte. This allowed Smart to speed up his recovery since he was able to train and receive treatment multiple times per day at the C’s practice facility in Waltham, Massachusetts.

“On the road I wouldn’t be able to do that because they have to tend to those guys who are playing,” said Smart. “But here all the attention is on me, making sure I was coming back healthy and making sure I was 100 percent.”

The only disadvantage of staying home was that Smart was unable to impact his teammates with his vocal presence from the bench. His television took the brunt of his fervent loquacity instead.

“It was hard,” said Smart. “I was screaming at my TV every game hoping they could hear me. It’s difficult when you can’t be out there with your teammates and you know that you can help.”

Boston’s second unit struggled somewhat through the first three games, particularly in the department that Smart thrives in most – defense. His return should be an immense boost on that end.

“He’s definitely going to be a huge help for us,” said fellow second-teamer Terry Rozier. “You feel his presence; he’s always talking, he’s loud and he’s just somebody that anybody should want on their team. So he’s definitely going to help our second unit.”

Smart should also be of aid in the rebounding department, which Boston lacked in greatly during its loss in Chicago last Thursday. The Bulls dominated on the boards and grabbed 55 rebounds to just 36 for the Celtics. Furthermore, Chicago held an 18-to-3 advantage when it came to offensive rebounds.

“Marcus is a good rebounder, generally,” said coach Brad Stevens, “and he’s good at blocking out. We were a little bit better against Charlotte (on the glass), but we still have a long way to do. We’ve got to get better and we’ll be tested in that regard again on Wednesday.”

As for testing Smart’s ankle for the first time this regular season, Stevens says he’ll rely on his training staff’s judgment.

“If given the full go-ahead, I’d say play like you’d normally play,” said Stevens. “But it’s also going to be his first game and everything else, so we’ll see.”

That being said, Smart’s game only has one speed and that’s full-throttle. Don’t expect him to be holding anything back during his return to the court.

"You can’t try to baby the injury because that’s when you start compensating for other things,” said Smart. “You just gotta go in and believe in the work that you’ve been doing and the strength of it.”

Smart says that his ankle feels stronger now than it has in a couple of seasons, referring back to the ankle sprain that sidelined him for a good chunk of his 2014-15 rookie campaign.

He’ll get to put that ankle to the test Wednesday night, and the C’s will certainly appreciate his presence against the Bulls’ elite backcourt of Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade.