A five-day break in-between games rarely occurs during the NBA regular season, but when the scheduling gods gave the Boston Celtics that benefit, it was thought the time off would provide some much-needed rest and relaxation to recoup from injuries.
After not playing since last Thursday, in which C’s dropped their second straight game by falling to the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston somehow illogically seems worse for wear on the injury front.
Robert Williams will miss at least three weeks due to a bone edema in his left hip and backup big man Vincent Poirier broke his right pinky figure.
And while the depth at center is a concern, the Celtics are without key pieces as Marcus Smart will miss his fourth straight game when Boston faces the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night as his eye infection has spread to his other eye. Gordon Hayward surprisingly popped up on the injury report with left foot soreness that Stevens said he has dealt with virtually the entire season and that will prevent him from playing against the Mavs, too.
“It feels like we get further away every day. It’s just the way it’s going,” said Stevens of the C’s getting fully healthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak and Bertrand show. “It’s been a tough go about. You always hope that these breaks lead you into more bodies available and we just haven’t been fortunate in that regard.”
So, to recap, during a 5-day break for the Hospital Celtics:— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) December 18, 2019
Marcus Smart’s eye infection got worse
Vincent Poirier broke a finger
Gordon Hayward developed left foot soreness
Robert Williams got shut down indefinitely due to a hip bruise
The Hospital Celtics have rarely had their full compliment of players available, especially their stars. Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Hayward and Smart have all suited up together in the same game just five times this season, with the last occurrence coming on Nov. 9 against the San Antonio Spurs, the same game Hayward fractured his left hand.
All the injuries have opened the door for role players and rookies to get extended playing time that couldn't have been anticipated. Semi Ojeleye and Brad Wanamaker have far exceeded their minutes per game totals from last season, especially Wanamaker, who at a similar point a year ago saw game action just six times compared to the 24 appearances he has made this year. Of course, Wanamaker’s increased role comes from a move up the depth chart with Terry Rozier in Charlotte now.
#Celtics head coach Brad Stevens joins @ZoandBertrand to talk about Gordon Hayward's surprise absence against Dallas (due to foot soreness), and how Javonte Green and Romeo Langford could see more minutes pic.twitter.com/W6vpBS1wlT— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) December 18, 2019
The C’s rookies have also had to go through a crash course in playing in the NBA with Grant Williams averaging 14 minutes per game along with Carsen Edwards getting some run, too.
For Stevens, the never-ending injuries keeps him sifting through his rolodex in search of the right lineup combination.
It hasn’t been easy and Stevens would prefer a fully functioning unit, like any coach. But the injuries have allowed the C’s to discover what exactly they have on their bench, and that’s valuable to Stevens with a good portion of the roster on the mend.
“I actually think our guys have done a really good job, all things considered, holding down the fort,” Stevens said. “But in a lot of ways you’re building your depth. Your new guys get to play. It’s a great opportunity for them and that can really benefit you down the road. I think there’s always a silver lining in these things.”