Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
That’s how long it took before Marcus Smart launched himself on the floor in Game 5 of an Eastern Conference first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks last year. Smart was playing his first game in six weeks after tearing a ligament in his right hand but, with little more than a protective wrap, he dove on the hard parquet in pursuit of a loose ball.
It’s the perfect summation of Smart.
And it’s exactly what the Celtics will miss after an MRI on Wednesday revealed that Smart will be out four to six weeks with what the team termed a partial avulsion of his left oblique abdominal muscle off of his iliac crest.
It’s an injury that’s rare to NBA players, according to sources, which makes the return-to-action timeline a bit murkier.
The Celtics were holding out hope that Smart might recover in time for a return in Round 2 of the postseason, according to league sources, but even a four-week recovery would leave him returning to basketball activities in early May. The conference finals are scheduled to start May 14-15.
NBCSports Boston — Celtics lose more than defense with Smart’s absence
Injuries to key players in the post-season can strike any team in the league, but they sure seem to strike with unrivaled frequency here in Boston. KG in 2009, Perk in a crucial spot in 2010, Rajon Rondo in 2011 (thanks for the memories, Dwyane), Isaiah Thomas in 2017 (though it probably didn’t matter against that Cavs juggernaut), Kyrie Irving last season and now Marcus as we sit three days from the start of this Celtics’ post-season run.
What’s wild is that this one was oh so freaking avoidable. From Jay King at The Athletic:
The seriousness of Smart’s injury highlights Boston’s lack of caution. For weeks, the Celtics had stressed they intended to prioritize health down the stretch. Yet in a mostly meaningless game against the Orlando Magic, after they had already wrapped up home-court advantage in the first round, they allowed Smart to re-enter after a collision with Nikola Vucevic left him in obvious pain.
After a timeout was called, Smart limped over to the Celtics bench, where he was examined by trainer Art Horne. The two chatted throughout the timeout and Smart, according to coach Brad Stevens, argued he felt healthy enough to continue playing. The guard was permitted to stay in the lineup. After returning to the court, Smart could tell something wasn’t right. While retreating on defense, he experienced enough pain to call for a sub. He limped, then crumbled to the floor, clutching at his hip region as he did it.
Hindsight is 20/20, and this whole decision to play the starters against Orlando has already been covered in the last couple of days, so let’s move beyond that and talk about what’s in front of us.
There will probably be long stretches of games here in the first round where the loss of Smart isn’t quite that noticeable. For as much of a struggle as the season has been, the Celtics are, indeed, still quite deep. They can still win without Marcus. And for as much as Terry Rozier has complained (especially lately) about how much the season has sucked for him, here’s his chance to recapture some Scary Terry magic. Maybe he does and keeps things humming in Smart’s absence.
But be it in this series or early in the next one, there’s going to be a stretch where things start going off the rails, and the Celtics need a big play to get back on them. Or, there’s going to be a crunch-time sequence where a stop, or a steal or a hustle play is needed. The rest of the roster isn’t a bunch of no-effort softies, but there’s only one guy you can rely on to make that play or get that stop with regularity, and that’s Smart.
One interesting nugget from Forsberg referenced above is that not much is known about the type of oblique injury that Smart obtained as it relates to the NBA. That, plus Smart’s toughness led Adam Himmelsbach to tweet this:
Let’s see how Smart feels a week from now, but if he’s able to come back on the low end of that and the Celtics advance, maybe we see him for game three in Boston against Milwaukee.
On the other hand, I take everything Boston Celtics injury-related with a grain of salt. Remember KG in 2009 coming back any day now? How about Kyrie last year? Those were both more structural in nature, where as this is muscular, but I’m keeping my guard up.
Herald — Celtics lose Smart for 4-6 weeks
NBCSports Boston — Marcus Smart could miss first two rounds of playoffs
On page 2 Kyrie reflects, confounds and confuses
As excited he is for the playoffs to begin, he’s equally happy the regular season is over. This particular regular season seems to have been especially tiresome for Boston’s 27-year-old star. When asked to reflect on this past season he said “a lot of bulls—.”
Irving made it clear that he was talking about himself and how he could have handled professional and personal situations differently.
“I had a lot of questions, a lot of things that weren’t being answered straight up about what it takes to be a great professional in this league,” he said. “I think the frame of that is just outdated in terms of what you have to be every single day. It’s not that hard, you know what I mean? I think the media and all the stuff that comes with it, I think that it’s an exciting part of that that you’ve got to be aware of. But the real part is literally what I used to wake up every single morning to do, and that’s to put a ball in the hoop and be really great at it.”
Ok it was not Billy Madison levels of irrational, it wasn’t idiotic, but sometimes I just don’t know where Kyrie Irving is going and what he’s really trying to say.
What was confounding, though, is that he again took some blame and included some self-reflection.
Anyways, it’s clear that Kyrie is ready to look forward and not look back on what has been a trying season for him personally and for his team. Of the playoffs:
“The competition-level is at an all-time high,” he said today after the team’s first postseason practice. “By any means necessary you have to go out there and get a win. It’s just something to play for, it’s basketball, true basketball.”
I’m personally ready for Kyrie to go off in the post-season, to truly endear himself to 20,000 fans decked out in green and white, and to raise his teammates up in the process. Let’s hope it happens!
And finally, the Celtics on Celtics survey unearthed some great nuggets
One fact unearthed during the interview process: Morris does not like when teammates decline to wear socks. He split his vote between Baynes, whose fashion sense is bland, and Brown.
“JB never wears socks,” Morris said, “so I don’t like that.”
The Athletic — Celtics on Celtics survey
This is worth the read if you have a subscription to The Athletic. Marcus Morris on why Jaylen Brown is the worst dressed Celtic cracked me up.