WALTHAM — So much for starting the season on the right...ankle.
Marcus Smart, who is embarking on his third season in the NBA with the pressure of potential stardom on his shoulders, will yet again be out with an ankle sprain. Smart will miss the season opener against the Nets Wednesday and may miss multiple weeks.
"Opening night is off the table, yes," Smart said after his missing practice Tuesday. "A couple weeks (from when the injury occurred in the middle of last week). That's the projection that they gave me, really just not trying to rush anything and just trying to make sure that we can limit this from happening again. We're taking every precaution we can with it."
Marcus suffered the sprained ankle in the preseason finale against the Knicks, when he stepped on the side of Justin Holiday’s foot on a drive and rolled over the side of his ankle. In his rookie year, Smart also missed most of November when he suffered an identical ankle sprain on the other foot. Smart again missed most of November and December last season with a knee subluxation, which occurred after his return from a short stint on the sidelines with a toe sprain.
"It sucks," Smart said. "It does suck just because you work so hard and, especially with these guys out here, you've been in the battles in practice and the fighting, and preseason. I mean, the last game of preseason you get hurt, everything's going wrong for you.
This ankle is a major blow for Smart, as ankle and knee injuries have hampered a crucial part of his game: his athleticism. Smart told CelticsBlog last month that a key reason why he jumps much lower off the ground when he has the ball in his hands is because his legs have not been at full enough strength to jump off one leg effectively. Smart’s greatest leaping plays come when he jumps off two feet, which he says he does as a matter of safe jumping technique to avoid another injury. So reducing swelling and solidifying his ankle will be vital to being the player he wants to be as soon as possible.
"I'm feeling better," Smart said Tuesday. "The swelling's going down. I've been in the training room, working with those guys and trying to help strengthen the ankle and get all the fluid out."
With a pair of games against the Bulls on the schedule, as well as the Hornets and Nets, Smart will be missing guard-led matchups where the Celtics need him most. But there was one important phrase Smart uttered Tuesday that should reign supreme in these situations:
“Better safe than sorry.”