BOSTON — Marcus Smart is back in the Celtics’ facilities, focusing on weight training and continuing a recovery regimen to return to from an array of postseason injuries. Many of his teammates are back alongside him with under one month from training camp, and the rest will join soon.
It’s been less than three months since the NBA Finals concluded at TD Garden, with Smart playing through a right foot sprain following the Milwaukee series, a sprained right ankle suffered midway through the East Conference Finals and a long-running right thigh ailment that forced him to miss Game 2 against the Bucks.
Smart is nearly 100% as training camp looms later this month, telling CLNS Media/CelticsBlog in an exclusive interview at his pop-up shop for his YounGameChanger foundation in Allston that he’s still recovering from the ankle injury. Ime Udoka emphasized rest for a banged-up Celtics group after a long postseason run and Smart spent most of the summer trying to slowly ramp up toward next season, his ninth in Boston.
“My ankle is feeling better, it’s still healing, so I’m dealing with that,” Smart told CLNS. “Just giving it as much rest as I can, but definitely back on the court. I’m definitely back into the action. It feels like yesterday we just stopped playing, we haven’t really missed a beat, but I’m definitely doing everything I can to be ready for next season and to go deeper. I’m pretty close (to 100%). Obviously it’s September, you don’t want to be in June, July, May shape right now so I’m trying not to go too crazy, but I’m really close and I’ve been doing this going into my ninth season. So for me, I know exactly what I need and what I need to get myself ready so I’ll so be there.”
The Celtics have yet to discuss the NBA Finals as a team, absorbing it individually as they’ve tried to give each other space through the short offseason. They’ll have those talks soon, Smart said, now that the roster looks set to run it back in full after the NBA Finals. Danilo Gallinari won’t be able to join them, tearing his ACL in Europe, and Smart’s lingering ailment adds some uncertainty entering camp. Smart discussed those stories, the Kevin Durant saga, teaming up with Malcolm Brogdon and more.
Other highlights from the interview, available in full on CLNS Media.
On his YGC foundation: “We’ve been doing this for a while, just getting some ideas, and really wanted to just give back. The community, city of Boston has showed me a lot of love and I just wanted to give back to them and what better way than to come out here and do a pop-up. People have been asking us about the hoodies, the shirt, the clothing and they’ve been liking the creativity we’ve been coming with so we decided to go ahead and do a pop-up and let everybody come and get something for themselves for the reasoning and the inspiration is really the community and the city, the love that they show me. I just wanted to give it back to them.”
“For me, my foundation is a huge part of me and who I am. I started it about nine years ago to help find a cure for cancer and help mentor the city youth and really for me, the goal is just to really give families and people who are going through this stressful and unfortunate situation, to give them the hope that they’re looking for and that they need at that moment. We’re accomplishing things, like we have these Smart carts that we wheel out to be able to go to the hospitals at Children’s and every cart has up-to-date technology from iPads to tablets, so everything that allows a kid to be a kid, still being active in life while they’re confined in the little room that they’re in. So we’ve been doing a lot of things: the fundraiser, we do a bowling event and just finding ways to get the message out and to get everybody involved.”
On the NBA Finals loss: “You hear it all the time, "it’s a lesson," but it’s tough when you’ve got to take the lesson the hard way. We have to take the lesson the hard way. We learned a lot out of our experience and unfortunately we had to lose to do that, but we now know what it takes to play, to be there, the stress it takes on you, mentally, physically, emotionally. You kind of figure when and when not to be too excited about it, how to play it and how to keep yourself calm. It was a lot of factors that we’ve learned individually and as a group from this, but like you said it’s tough to have to learn the hard way, but we did it. We’ve been talking individually. Nobody has really talked as a team. We kind of just wanted to leave it alone. It’s still fresh for us, so guys are really just trying to wait, but once we do start talking, we’ll get that out there, but right now we’re just giving ourselves a break.”
On Danilo Gallinari’s ACL tear: “I have not talked to him. I’ve been doing a lot, but definitely was keeping up with him and everything and when I’d seen and heard it, it was just devastating. You never want to see anybody get hurt, let alone on your team, but anybody. Somebody like Gallo who’s coming in and was going to help us tremendously, it definitely pushes us back a little bit, but it’s the NBA, we’re professionals, we have other guys on the roster and it’s time for them to step up.”
On Jaylen Brown being involved in trade reports: “He’s handled it great. He walks around with a smile on his face. We actually haven’t even mentioned it when we were together. We were just talking about the upcoming season and getting ourselves ready, but he’s great. He’s handling it as professionally as he can and my advice is, to anybody, don’t forget it’s a business first. When you’re doing business, personal stuff has to go out the window and can’t be the issue, so you can’t look at it like that. If your name is up there in trade talks, I look at it as a compliment. It means teams want you. That’s a good thing. The problem is, if your name is not, nobody wants you. So that’s how I’m look at it and that’s how people should look at it. It’s tough, I understand it, but just because it’s going on you never know. Anything can happen.”