The Celtics main focus during their practices on Wednesday and Thursday will be on preparing to battle a tough Bulls team when they come to Boston for a Black Friday matinee. However, a share of the spotlight will be on Marcus Smart’s return to practice, with the hope that he can suit up after missing seven games with a sprained left ankle.
“It’s just a matter of him getting back out here, and it’s more about conditioning than it is about anything else right now,” offered Brad Stevens.”Just because he hasn’t done anything on the court physically, as far as 5-on-5 in the last three weeks, or whatever it’s been.”
One thing that the team certainly will not do is rush Smart, especially after Avery Bradley attempted to return prematurely from an ankle injury just last season.
“I don’t know [if Bradley can offer Smart any help on returning],” Stevens admitted. “Again, I trust our medical team and medical staff, and, you know, I think that Marcus and Avery, I’m sure, will share that discussion and talk about that. You know, we don’t want anybody to come back before they’re physically able, because, obviously, you don’t want to put yourself in a bad spot.”
Bradley knows he put himself in a bad spot last year, so his advice to Smart was simple.
“It’s tough; this is his first year. Obviously he wants to help our team out and he’s a little disappointed that he hasn’t been able to every single game. You know, he’s back, but one thing everyone’s been telling him is just make sure that your body feels good; listen to your body.”
So, did Bradley listen to his body last season? “Obviously not, I re-hurt myself,” he said.
Assuming Smart is able to play on Friday, Stevens is not planning on using him any differently than he was before, despite Smart’s recent lack of conditioning.
“I don’t know more so than normal,” Stevens said of Smart’s minutes. “He’s not a starter, so there’ve been a couple games early, especially the Dallas game, where he probably played close to starter minutes. You know, I think if he’s in the mid-twenties it’s not really limiting minutes, it’s probably about what he would be playing anyway.”
After starting Wednesday’s practice, Smart was unable to finish the session. He will get another chance to prove himself before the Bulls come to town as the Celtics will also practice on Thanksgiving.
Bradley has some concerns of his own
Bradley has not been to the free throw line in the past five games. Something his coach feels he needs to figure out.
“We need him to get to the foul line more,” Stevens said. “I think the interesting part is that his free throw have really come on jump shots, so they haven’t come on drives. There’s a fine line between that, because he is a really good catch and shoot, run and shoot type of guy who can get a guy on his back, and might get fouled on a jump shot. And at the same time, he’s a guy that when he gets into the paint, he’s not big. So, you know, he’s got to get an angle to finish, and he’s seeking and searching for that angle. Again, there’s a fine line. We’d like him to get to the foul line more, he’d like to get to the foul line more.”
Although Bradley won’t be paying special attention to his drought of getting to the line, he knows what he needs to do to get there.
“You just have to be aggressive and not think about it,” Bradley said. “Going into the game you just have to be aggressive and make plays and hopefully get the call. That’s my mindset, just to be aggressive.”
Bradley and Smart (if he plays) will likely be asked to play very aggressive on Friday if they are going to have success when they face a backcourt of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler — one of the best backcourts in the NBA when fully healthy themselves.
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