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Marcus Smart returns from knee injury for Boston Celtics against New York Knicks

Marcus Smart makes his return to the Boston Celtics Sunday after missing the last 18 games with a knee subluxation.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON – With the knee subluxation injury in the past and a month of recovery and rehab behind him, Marcus Smart returns to the floor for the Celtics Sunday night against the New York Knicks. Smart missed the last 18 games with a subluxation of the proximal tibfib joint, with the Celtics going 10-8 in that span.

The engine of the Celtics’ defense will make a gradual return, coming off the bench in short stints with an unofficial minutes restriction.

We’ll probably throw him in and see how he looks," coach Brad Stevens said pregame. "He hasn’t played a five-on-five game in aw while. He’ll be on limited minutes. So he’ll come off the bench and we’ll play [him] short stints. There’s really not a number attached to that, but he hasn’t played in awhile and this will be his first five-on-five action in quite a bit."

Smart will have to learn to take things slow, something that is definitely not in his nature.

"I kind of have to [take it slow] now. My body can’t; I can’t, even though I’m used to playing at one speed. This is an important time for me to just kind of really gradually gain my confidence back on the floor and trust that my body is in."

Smart has been working hard to return before the new year, but this will be his first five-on-five experience since the injury. It’s gonna take a lot of rust-shaking to get back to being a crucial rotation player.

"I’ve been doing almost anything: cutting, playing defense, one-on-one, two-on-two, a little bit of three-on-three, contact, non-contact, jumping, sprinting. The basics."

Smart said the team has played well without him, which is certainly debatable. But while he was gone, Avery Bradley has continued to be one of the league’s most well-rounded shooting guards while Isaiah Thomas has carried the offense on his back. The results have been mixed, but the team never nose dives into desperation.

"They’ve been playing very well," Smart said. "Some games we have lost, we were right there and there were just one or two things we could have done differently.

"I don’t want to come back and disrupt the flow. I want to add to it and keep it going."

Smart will come off the bench initially, but will have a chance to regain his starting spot eventually.

"That’s not up to me. Those guys have been playing very well with Isaiah and Avery in the starting lineup."