Before going down with an ankle injury Marcus Smart (36) was playing his typical intense D last Wednesday. (Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)
WALTHAM – When Marcus Smart went down with a left ankle injury against the Knicks in the preseason finale, he knew the timing was bad.
Smart has been working hard ever since the end of Game 6 of the Hawks series to be the leader of a Celtics team ready to take that next step. Then he took a wrong step against the Knicks last Wednesday and his season has been put on hold for at least two weeks, as he announced after Tuesday’s practice.
“A couple weeks. That’s the projection that they gave me, really just not trying to rush anything and just trying to make sure that we can limit this from happening again,” Smart said. “We’re taking every precaution we can with it.”
But that means Smart, the projected sixth man for Brad Stevens, won’t be suiting up against the Nets when the season tips off Wednesday at TD Garden.
“It sucks. It does suck just because you work so hard and, especially with these guys out here, you’ve been in the battles in practice and the fighting, and preseason,” Smart lamented. “I mean, the last game of preseason you get hurt, everything’s going wrong for you. But I’m optimistic about it and this team is. I’m just waiting to come back and get on the court with those guys.”
The best sign Tuesday was the sight of Smart on the sideline, chirping at his teammates and not wearing a boot on the injury foot.
“I’m feeling better. The swelling’s going down,” Smart said. “I’ve been in the training room, working with those guys and trying to help strengthen the ankle and get all the fluid out. It shouldn’t be too long. But like I said, better safe than sorry.”
Smart injured the same ankle early on in his rookie year with the Celtics and appeared to be in serious pain last Wednesday. Smart admitted that he feels somewhat fortunate that it’s only two weeks.
“Definitely. With this being the same ankle that pretty much blew up before my rookie year really bad and missed almost a couple months with that,” Smart said. “For me to be out of the boot and walking on it right now, two weeks from the injury is a good sign.
“This isn’t my first ankle sprain and I know it won’t be my last. We’ve just got to let it heal on its own, let your body do what it does.
“I wasn’t as nervous just for the fact that it didn’t feel as bad as the first one I did my rookie year. I kind of knew what it was, it was sprained and I just thank God that it wasn’t more. It was taped. That does help but obviously, as we’ve seen, even though you’re taped, it still happened.”
In the meantime, Smart will be very vocal, imploring his teammates to play the kind of defense that is his trademark.
“Definitely. That’s one of the perks about me. I’m able to coach guys off the court, even if I’m not playing,” Smart said. “That’s one of the things that these coaches and my teammates love about me. It’s just something unique that I think about myself. I’m able to stay engaged even though I’m not on the floor.”
What will he be working on?
“I’m still working, like stationary ball-handling, stationary shooting once they allow me to get on the floor a little bit and get on my feet a little bit. It’s a big deal. It’s a big key for me. Every play, every athlete, you’re a competitor and you want to get back out there but you’ve got to see the reality that you’re going to feel better before you actually are better and take the time to let your body heal.
“This isn’t my first ankle injury. this is nothing new to me. It won’t be my last. This isn’t the first or last ankle injury that they’re going to see or that they’ve seen. Those guys do a really good job with what they do and they understand and they know what they’re doing.
“We’re going to be good, really good. We have a lot of players that can do a lot of things. Every day in practice we’re pushing each other and everybody’s showing the things they can do. There’s a lot of potential. As long as we stay focused and focus on the things we’re told, we can be as good as we want.”