The Boston Celtics are anxiously awaiting the return of Marcus Smart, but it looks like their starting point guard will be sidelined for a while longer.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined the Toucher and Rich show on 98.5 the Sports Hub for his weekly call Thursday morning to reveal that Smart may be weeks away from returning to the court.
"I don't know a timetable, you never know, Marcus will be the only one that will know when his leg will be completely healed. But the good news is that there's no surgery needed; it's more like a bad sprain and he just needs time to get it healthy. It'd still probably be another few weeks, I'd guess."
Smart has been sidelined since bumping knees with Brooklyn's Thomas Robinson in a game against the Nets on November 20. Initially coach Brad Stevens had speculated that Smart would only be sidelined for a couple weeks, but here we are nearly two weeks later and the news is that he could miss at least another couple weeks.
The Celtics are 3-3 since Smart went down with the injury. Prior to his absence the Celtics were tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the best defensive rating in the league at 95.0, but in the six games without him they have slipped to a mediocre 100.0.
Isaiah Thomas has benefited by being thrust into the starting role that he's craved ever since he arrived in Boston last season, but he doesn't bring the same tenacious defense that Smart does. The second unit has also been missing the offensive spark that Thomas typically brought off the bench. IT has played well as a starter, averaging 21.3 points and 5.5 assists over the last six games, but it seems the team is better off with Smart in the starting lineup.
It's not as if the team's recent regression has been due to a difficult schedule. Since Smart has been out of the lineup, Boston has dropped games to Brooklyn and Orlando, while barely squeezing by a Philadelphia 76ers team that has only won once all season.
Ainge praised Smart for being a fierce competitor who plays hard, drawing the adoration of his teammates. The Celtics need him back, but they are also cautious that Smart's fearless playing style may make him more susceptible to injury, which is why they don't want to rush him back until they are confident his knee is ready.
Sadly it seems that Smart won't be available when the undefeated Golden State Warriors come to town on December 11. Watching Smart hound reigning MVP Stephen Curry up and down the court would have been quite a show and the Celtics could certainly use his help in order to take down the champs.
As discouraging as it is to remain uncertain of when Smart will return, we can at least be relieved that he hasn't suffered a more significant injury that requires surgery. He'll be back on the court at some point, presumably later this month. Until then, we'll keep waiting.