Smart Tests Achilles but Exits Practice Early

WALTHAM, Mass. - Optimism waned Tuesday afternoon in regard to Marcus Smart's availability for Wednesday night's game against Orlando.

The Celtics had hoped that Smart, who suffered a strained left Achilles Friday night, would be able to fully participate in Tuesday's practice. However, as Brad Stevens revealed, such was not the case.

“Marcus started off practice and then did not complete it,” Stevens told the media following Tuesday’s practice. “I would say that he’s unlikely (for Wednesday), but I don’t know."

On the surface, this is bad news for the Celtics, as they’re likely to be without their top rookie for at least another game. However, digging deeper, there is a positive to today’s news.

For the second time this season, Smart is listening to his body. He attempted to return to practice from a sprained left ankle on Nov. 26 but didn’t feel quite right. As a result, he pulled himself from practice, just as he did on Tuesday.

Smart’s decision to leave practice on Tuesday did not alarm the coaching staff. As Stevens explained, the rookie was just following directions.

“The directive he was given today was, ‘You see how you feel and you decide,’” the coach said. “Obviously he didn’t feel great. I think he just didn’t feel great and pulled himself out. That’s the directive he was given.”

Smart has also been advised by his teammates to take caution with his return. Avery Bradley, who dealt with similar Achilles pain following multiple ankle sprains throughout his career, has been one of the key voices on that front.

“I just listened to my body,” said Bradley, “and that’s the same thing I tell him: ‘Don’t come out here and try to be Superman. Just take your time and when your ankle is ready, it’s going to be ready.’”

It is clear that Smart’s ankle wasn’t ready to go today. He tested it out, but to no avail.

Sill, there remains a chance that he could arrive at TD Garden tomorrow night feeling like he’s able to play. If such is the case, Stevens would not call his bluff.

“It’s his call and it’s the trainer’s calls,” Stevens said of the aforementioned scenario. “I don’t get into trying to be smarter than I am. If he tells me he’s OK (I’ll assume he’s OK).”

It seemed from an outside perspective like Stevens eased Smart back into the lineup following the rookie’s sprained ankle. After becoming available to play on Dec. 3, Smart logged a total of only 13 minutes over the course of the next three games. Stevens downplayed that fact after being asked about it on Tuesday.

“That was just because I didn’t feel like he was up to speed,” Stevens explained, “not necessarily just because of his injury.”

Regarding his mindset upon a player’s return from injury, the coach later added, “I think you have to give him a chance and see how he feels, but at the same time, you have to be cognizant of the injury. I can’t try to figure the injury out. That’s for the people that are a lot more qualified than I am.”

When making that comment, Stevens was referencing Boston’s medical staff and Smart. The medical staff will know when Smart is healthy enough to participate without further injuring himself. Smart will know when he feels healthy enough to not only participate, but to compete at a high level.

As much as the Celtics had hoped, today was not the day for the latter to take place. Smart’s return to action remains filed under “TBD.”

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