Marcus Smart has a message for Boston Celtics fans: He’s back!
The third-year guard has missed the first three games of the season with an ankle injury, but he expects to be ready for the rematch with the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday after going “all out” in practice today.
“I went through the full practice. The ankle felt great,” Smart told reporters on Monday, per ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “I will be playing Wednesday. So it feels good to be out here with those guys.”
The decision to take the court isn’t entirely up to Smart, but his confidence is a promising sign. Barring a setback, there appears to be no reason not to expect Smart to make his season debut in the team’s next game.
The Celtics could certainly use his pitbull defense on the perimeter. Granted it’s been a minuscule sample size, but Boston is allowing the fourth-most three-point field goals in the league at 11.7 per game, with opposing teams converting at an above-average rate of 34.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Boston’s struggles defending the three are what nearly allowed the Brooklyn Nets to stage a comeback last week, while their lone loss to Chicago was in part due to historically poor shooters like Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler draining shots from deep against them.
Smart averaged a modest 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 67 games last season. The No. 6 overall pick in 2014 is expected to make a leap in his third year and should play a vital role off the bench, with the Celtics looking to fill the void left from Evan Turner’s departure. Terry Rozier has been soaking up a lot of those minutes, but Smart comes with more upside and has the ability to impact a game in a variety of ways.
Even if his box-score numbers don’t increase as much as we hope they will, defense has always been Smart’s calling card and will continue to be the primary factor that earns him minutes.
The second unit has been a bit of an issue in the early going this season, but with Smart reclaiming his role as the top guard off the bench, things are starting to look up.