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BOSTON – In a season full of devastating injuries, the Boston Celtics finally had some positive news to share Tuesday morning regarding one of their wounded players.
Marcus Smart, who has been sidelined since mid-March after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb, is reportedly progressing through his post-surgery rehab as well as anyone could have hoped for. According to coach Brad Stevens, the fourth-year guard could be back on the court before the month of April is over.
“From everything I’ve been told, he’ll be re-evaluated in the middle of next week,” Stevens told members of the media ahead of shootaround at Georgetown University prior to the Celtics' matchup against the Washington Wizards. “April 27 is the earliest he could be back, so we’ll cross our fingers and see.”
This means if all goes accordingly, Smart could potentially return to action by the end of the first round of the Playoffs, as long as Boston’s series makes it past five games. Upon his return, he will likely have to wear some type of splint to protect his thumb, but his presence alone would be a huge boost for the shorthanded Celtics.
“That’d be big, man,” a hopeful Marcus Morris stated as he began warming up at the John R. Thompson Jr. Athletic Center gym. “He’s a major part of this team and it would be great to have him back.”
Smart tore the ligament March 11 while diving on the floor for a loose ball against the Indiana Pacers at TD Garden. He underwent surgery five days later and was given a six- to eight-week estimate for his return date.
Hoping to return on the earlier side of that timetable, Smart began his rehabilitation process with the mindset of a warrior.
“I'm just going to attack this rehab process like I have in the past and try to come back as strong as possible,” Smart said March 19, while hosting his annual charity bowling event in Boston.
It seems that Smart has lived up to his word so far, because April 27 would be the exact six-week mark from the date of his surgery.
Potentially having him back that early in the postseason would be a game-changer for the Celtics.
“To be honest, that would be huge,” backcourt mate Jaylen Brown said, his eyes lighting up as he laced up his sneakers. “We know what Marcus brings to the table defensively. And some of our guards, especially me, that will help us out a whole lot having him back there with us.”
With that being said, the Celtics don’t want Smart to feel like he needs to rush back to the court. It’s understandable that he would want to return as soon as possible, but the last thing his teammates and coaches want is for him to come back too early and re-injure his thumb in the process.
“It’s great that Marcus is making progress, but I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him,” said Al Horford, whose Celtics have gone 8-5 during Smart’s absence. “I think, as a group, we need to really focus with what we have right now. And my whole thing with Marcus is that I want him to be able to feel great and be able to come back when he’s ready.”
Until then, the Celtics will have to continue to hold down the fort without their defensive spark plug, just as they have been over the last month.