BOSTON -- The ankle is wrapped up tight and ready to go.
10 games after rolling his ankle on Lavoy Allen's foot on a fastbreak, Marcus Smart is confident enough in his ankle to make his heavily-anticipated return.
For a Celtics team whose second-half intensity has bordered on catatonic, they are desperate for the kick in the behind that Smart has been bringing in his short career.
"I feel good actually. Way better than how I was feeling a week ago," Smart said. "I’ve been working on some movements and strengthening my ankle. I’m pleased with the progress. I’m not saying I’m 100%, but it’s durable for me and I’m going to try to play tonight."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens is well aware of the dip in energy since Smart went down and is looking for a change with the rookie’s return.
"I think we need what he brings on a normal basis, so hopefully he’s able to do that," said Stevens. The coach was looking for the thumbs up from the point guard and got what he needed.
"I’m giving [Coach Stevens] the thumbs up tonight," Smart said. "It’s going to be interesting to see how I come back off of this and what I am able to do out there."
It’s been a relatively short rehab period considering the initial fears when he went down and needed to be carted off on a stretcher. But Smart quickly got back to work and has been pushing to make a quick return.
"I’ve actually been doing quite a few things. A lot of cutting, jumping and full-out sprints. Just trying to get back and get those muscles working."
Although he has been getting his work in, Smart was as worried as everyone watching at first.
"[The CT scan] was very important to me, just because the pain that I was in the night I hurt it and a week ago. I just wanted to make sure we didn’t miss anything and nothing came up. It was a negative, so that’s a good thing."
"I requested it," Smart said. "Just to make sure for both parties -- mine and the team -- before I even tried to give a thumb up."
Even if Smart is not completely healed, he is not taking any big risks. He and the training staff have been careful to ensure he is both ready to return safely and capably.
"If it was swelling, I wouldn’t even be trying to give it a go. That’s what we’ve been looking for. Obviously we know the pain is still going to be there, but it’s just like any type of injury of this severity. There’s going to be pain. Probably for a couple more weeks; a couple of months. But if I can play through it and it won’t effect what I’m doing out there, then it’s worth giving a shot."
For a rookie who passed on a draft in which he could’ve gone first overall to mature his mind and body, it’s somewhat disappointing to have to be dealing with physical hurdles so early into a rookie year. But Marcus understands that is what comes with the territory.
"I wouldn’t say [fighting through pain] is just a rookie thing. I would say it’s an athlete thing in general."
But getting butterflies certainly is a rookie thing.
"It feels like my first game ever. I’m very interested and intrigued to see what I can do out there tonight being back with this group of guys."
What will be really intriguing is what the group can do with him back in the fold.
How will Marcus Smart do in his return?
This poll is closed
Look rusty in limited minutes
Get back to his spot in the rotation
Be an absolute juggernaut!