Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart had a simple Christmas wish: to wake up and open his eyes without discomfort. After he dealt with a diabolical case of viral conjunctivitis that caused an infection in both of his eyes -- an ailment that, including Boston's Christmas Day game here against the Toronto Raptors, has cost him seven straight games -- that was enough to make Smart smile Wednesday morning.
"Hell," he said when asked to describe what the past few weeks have been like, while sitting in the visitors locker room here at Scotiabank Arena. "I thought I was going to go blind for a while. I think it was the worst case of viral conjunctivitis that they've seen. So, basically, I was a guinea pig to see how to handle this if it ever happens again to anybody else.”
Marcus Smart: "I actually have a picture that I showed the guys. It was pretty gross. I was bleeding tears every time they did it, for like a day. They did that for about four days straight. The first day was probably the worst, just because it built up so much that it started to scab under my eyelids, and they had to open the scab and then pull it out. It felt like they were putting needles in my eyes. They were using tweezers and vise grips to hold my eyes and actually get into my eyelids, the bottom and top.”
Clevis Murray: Marcus Smart (eye) announced on Twitter he practiced with the team today. It had been multiple weeks since he was on the court. As of yesterday, Stevens noted he was “unlikely” to play on Christmas Day.
Brian Robb: Brad Stevens on Marcus Smart's eye infection to @ZoandBertrand: "My assumption was that it should be something that will be able to be taken care of quickly...we're hopeful he will be able to play (vs. Indy)."
Tim Bontemps: "Just maintaining," Smart said with a smile. "That's it. Six years in, your body, you've got to take care of it a little bit more, a little bit better. So I'm just trying to maintain it and be a pro and just try to get in here and stay in the league as long as I can."
Kemba Walker (neck) didn't play, joining Boston Celtics teammates Jayson Tatum (left ankle) and Marcus Smart (left hand) on the U.S. injured list. White started in Walker's place at point guard.
John Schuhmann: Marcus Smart will play Saturday vs. Greece. Asked if he would have played Thursday had it been an elimination game, he said, "Definitely." He felt tightness the day after the USA's win over Turkey. "I was just taking more precaution than anything."
Marc Stein: As they prepare to leave the country today, Team USA gets one roster boost to counter the unexpected departure of De'Aaron Fox: Marcus Smart, I'm told, has been cleared to make a full return to the court from the calf injury that has sidelined him for the past week-plus
John Karalis: Gregg Popovich on Marcus Smart: "He’s going to be a day-to-day type of thing. Probably won’t practice the next couple of days I wouldn’t think."
Jay King: Brad Stevens said “there’s no question” Marcus Smart is excited to be back and others are too. “That should give us a good lift.”
Tim Bontemps: Brad Stevens: “I knew he was gonna play. It was one of those things where he had to get approval from the trainers, and it was one of those situations where it was basically a thumbs up emoji.”
Malika Andrews: Brad Stevens says that Marcus Smart will spend some time on Middleton. Smart will be available to play “short stints” in Game 4.
Malika Andrews: Mike Budenholzer, unsurprisingly, says Marcus Smart being active doesn’t change much about the Bucks approach. “We prepared for the Celtics,” Bud said. That includes Smart. “He’s obviously a very good player.”
Tim Bontemps: The Celtics have made it official: Marcus Smart is available for Game 4.
Sean Grande: Marcus Smart will play in Game 4 tonight. No "minute restriction", but "short stints", per Brad Stevens
Chris Forsberg: Celtics officially upgrade Marcus Smart to questionable for Game 4. He’s the only player on the injury report.
Adam Himmelsbach: Kyrie on possible Smart return: "It’s exciting. He’s a big part of our team. He alleviates a lot of different pressures out there throughout the game and makes my job a lot easier."
Gary Washburn: Marcus Smart: "I'm getting really close." Would not count out a return tomorrow. #Celtics
Marcus Smart, who confirmed Friday to the Herald that his plan is to go through contact Sunday for the first time since suffering a torn oblique muscle four weeks ago, remains on schedule. But based on Stevens’ practice plans for today, that contact may be happening off to the side. “I have not heard if he completed a workout today. When he came through, I did not hear if he got on the court,” Stevens said. “I’m going to talk to our training staff after that, and then tomorrow all indication is he will go through our practice. I’m writing up our practice plan now, and I don’t have any live drills on it, so if he does something, it’ll probably be before or after practice if that’s his next step.”
Chris Forsberg: Brad Stevens on Marcus Smart: “From all indications, he’ll go through our practice” on Sunday. Brad says his current practice plan has no live drills on it, so if Smart does any contact activities, it’ll be outside of practice.
Chris Forsberg: Marcus Smart on oblique injury: "Pain level is going down. ... It's not as sore, so that's even better. Mild contact … two weeks ago that was excruciating pain for me. This week it is better. Like I said, day-by-day it continues to get better.” Next step: Live contact.
Adam Himmelsbach: Smart: "Today was a great day. I was able to do some things more and more. This is the next step, the next process to getting me back on the court to be able to do simple things... like driving to the rim and really moving and getting my abdominal and torso muscles going."
Marcus Smart is moving closer to a return from his left oblique tear, and while there’s still uncertainty as to when that will be, another question has entered the picture. With the Celtics’ rotation playing so well in his absence through the first five games/wins of the postseason, one might think he’s concerned about messing that up when he’s ready to go.
“The beauty about me is I’m not too worried about the individual things,” Smart told the Herald as the Celts took the court Tuesday morning to prepare for Game 2 against the Bucks. “So, you know, I’m willing to do whatever and I’m going to do whatever when I come back to keep this momentum going, this flow going. And like they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So right now we’re rocking, and it’s no need to change that. So even if I’m able to come back this series or next series or whenever I do come back, there’s no reason to change what’s working right now.”
And no matter how big or small his role may be, “I’m cool with it,” he said. “I’m here to win games and try to win a championship for my team and the city. I’m not worried about individual stats or anything like that. When you win, everything falls into place, so I’ll just try to do everything I can to help this team win when I come back.”
Despite Smart’s progress, Brad Stevens was hesitant to raise expectations. “I didn’t really see (Smart’s treadmill workout),” Stevens said. “It doesn’t surprise me, because they said he’s making good progress. But it didn’t sound like the timeline was changing all that much from when I last talked to the training staff about it. I really haven’t talked about it in the last probably week or so. “I know he’s not close to playing. I know he’s progressed well, but I don’t know what that means.”
Jay King: Marcus Smart said the pain when he first got injured was like if Mike Tyson hit him with a body blow. Said after he went in, when he crumbled, it felt like he got shot.
Adam Himmelsbach: Smart says it still hurts to get shots up but it feels better than a few days ago. “We’re making progress.” Plans to start jogging in “the next couple weeks.”
If there is a short-term sign of progress, it will be Smart’s presence on the bench for Game 2 tomorrow night against Indiana. He wasn’t able to leave his house on Sunday. “I’ll be at the game tomorrow on the bench. It’ll be good to be able to get on the bench and be out there with those guys,” he said. “I had to watch it not from the bench, in the back at home, things like that, so it was really frustrating to not be out there with those guys at that time. But I’ll be there tomorrow.”
Little wonder that Smart’s next steps will be gradual. “I really need to walk fluidly, breathe more fluidly and just the everyday things like around the house like getting up and things like that,” he said. “I couldn’t get up. The last four or five days I needed help. But the next mark to see where I’m at is probably in two weeks, at the four-week mark and hopefully it’s progressed more than now and hopefully I can start running or jogging by then and hopefully shooting a basketball, so that’s my next mark and that’s what I’m trying to get to.”
The advice of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, who both missed the 2018 playoffs to injury, counts for even more. “Oh man, they’ve been huge, just really talking to me,” said Smart. “You’re not alone. The team’s here for you. Just showering me with love and encouragement. Obviously they’re devastated that I’m not out there, but really keeping me in my right mind, sane. Being able to get on the court is the way I was able to deal with a lot of things that caused frustration. Not being able to do that now is adding onto it. So it’s good getting that advice now.”
Jay King: Danny Ainge said the Celtics thought Marcus Smart’s injury was a hip pointer until MRI yesterday: “That’s a bummer.” Joked: “Maybe Terry will have some fun now.
Chris Forsberg: Terry Rozier on Marcus Smart injury: “Obviously, it’s tough seeing it but I feel like I’m more important to the series now. I’m more needed. Obviously, I’m going to have to step up. I’m gonna be ready for it.”
Chris Forsberg: Celtics release statement saying Smart suffered a "partial avulsion of his left oblique abdominal muscle off of his iliac crest.” Return to action timeline is 4-6 weeks. pic.twitter.com/9zZhT6iLHm
Adam Himmelsbach: Per sources, Marcus Smart was to undergo an MRI yesterday but the pain was too severe. He had one this afternoon instead that revealed a significant oblique injury. Return timeline is unclear, but he is expected to miss at least the first round of the playoffs, as @Adrian Wojnarowski said.
Adam Himmelsbach: Stevens says Tatum and Smart trending upward but both still sore. Tatum further along than Smart.
Not only did the Celtics lose to the Orlando Magic at TD Garden Sunday night, 116-108, but Boston also lost guard Marcus Smart and forward Jayson Tatum to injuries. Smart sustained a left oblique strain, a source tells ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, though coach Brad Stevens called it a bruise. Tatum has a left shin contusion.
Boston eventually called a timeout, and Smart limped to the bench -- only to convince the training staff that he was all right, and could stay in the game. But after the Celtics had the ball for one offensive possession -- a possession where Smart was clearly moving gingerly -- he called for the bench to replace him as he limped back on defense before falling to the ground, holding his side. "He felt like it was spasming on that second trip down the court," Stevens said. Smart would eventually get to his feet and hobble to the locker room with help from the trainers. "We'll see what that looks like tomorrow," Stevens said. "He was a little sore, but was walking around, which was good, in the locker room."
Brian Robb: Rozier and Theis are out due to illness tonight. Tatum (shoulder) and Smart (illness) are expected to play, per Celtics.
Jay King: Marcus Smart officially out against the Nets, per the Celtics. PJ Dozier has been recalled from the Red Claws with Boston's starting backcourt out.
Chris Mannix: Marcus Smart tells @The Vertical he experienced more soreness than usual in his injured thumb tonight, due to the positioning of the splint protecting it. Says he will adjust it before the next game. "I'm not worried about it," Smart tells Y!
May 22, 2022 | 7:42 pm EDT Update
Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler (knee) intends to play in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics on Monday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The six-time All-Star is being listed as questionable for Monday. Miami is also listing Kyle Lowry (hamstring), Tyler Herro (groin), P.J. Tucker (knee), Max Strus (hamstring) and Gabe Vincent (hamstring) as questionable.
May 22, 2022 | 5:43 pm EDT Update
Since these bench decorum issues generally have been resolved after the league intervenes, technical fouls have not been used a deterrent, and the league does not plan to start issuing techs during the conference finals. However, the topic will be discussed in the offseason, and the league will explore ways to address bench decorum during games in real time, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.