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Marcus Smart to return Thursday as Celtics are almost back to full health

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Romeo Langford is cleared to play after surgery, but out due to health and safety protocls

Boston Celtics v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics are almost back to full availability with their roster. Marcus Smart went through a full contact five-on-five practice today, as Boston returned from the All-Start break. Smart said the practice went well and his calf felt great. Following that practice, Smart said “I expect to play tomorrow” as the Celtics kick off the second half of the season against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.

Smart has missed 18 consecutive games after injuring his calf against the Los Angeles Lakers on February 2nd.

Boston has missed Smart’s defense and playmaking. The Celtics defense has dipped to 19th this season, in part because Smart has played in only 17 of 36 games. Smart has noticed that drop-off. He said “I just want guys to play with the same intensity I have.”

Brad Stevens gave a bit of a mixed update on Romeo Langford. The good news is that Stevens said Langford has been cleared to return from his wrist surgery. Unfortunately, Langford is now in the health and safety protocols. Stevens didn’t provide a timeline, but said that Langford likely won’t travel with the Celtics for their games in Brooklyn and Houston to open the second half.

Langford has missed the entirety of the 2020-21 season to this point. Langford tore ligaments in his right wrist in the final seeding game of the bubble. It was determined he would be able to play through the injury, but after suffering a strained right adductor during the 2020 playoffs, Boston decided he would have surgery immediately.

Updates over the course of the offseason and early season have been that Langford was working hard and looking good. Smart commented that it’s hard to do all the rehab by yourself, especially as the team travels in and out of town, but that Langford was “dedicated to the work”. This round in the protocols is the latest setback for the talented young wing, but hopefully a short one.

As for Kemba Walker, Brad Stevens doesn’t seem optimistic we’ll see the star guard play both ends of a back-to-back anytime soon. Stevens said “I haven’t even thought about that. I guess I’ve just been working under the assumption that will be the rest of the way. I guess maybe that could change in May.”

The Celtics have six sets of back-to-backs in the second half of the season, pending any makeup games due to postponements. Given Walker’s importance to the team, it’s likely Boston will prioritize having him healthy for the playoffs. In the postseason, there are no back-to-backs, which removes that concern related to Walker and the health of his knee.

After a season in which the Celtics have never had the full complement of players available, they’re finally almost there. That could come as soon as early next week, when the team returns home to Boston to play the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.