The Celtics will continue to be without Jae Crowder and Al Horford, at least for Wednesday’s tilt against the Mavericks, as they continue to learn to play without the pair of mainstays in the lineup.
Crowder is out with a left ankle sprain, while Horford continues to make his way through the NBA Concussion Protocol. And though returns could be on the horizon given the nature of the injuries, coach Brad Stevens noted he has “no clue” as to an exact timetable for either. The day-to-day nature of of the pair makes coaching decisions challenging for Stevens, but as time has gone on, he’s found a way to ease the process.
“I just kind of go through and scout, and if they’re available I’ll figure that out when the time comes. But until then I’m going unavailable in my own mind, I think that’s the best way to do it, the best way to organize you’re thoughts,” Stevens said. “If Al is able to play down the road, later in the week, we’ll throw Al right in there and I’ll adjust quickly. I think the best way is to plan without those guys, especially if they haven’t played in a while.”
Regardless of results, as of late, the Celtics have still been showing improvement with Crowder and Horford’s absence. And as exciting as those returns may be once they happen, it’s not a sure sign that the C’s will automatically experience an upswing in wins.
“I think it will still be an adjustment when we do [get everyone back] just because those guys haven’t played in a while,” Stevens said. “Until then we still have to focus on playing well, I thought we’ve made good strides the last three games. It was disappointing coming up short against New Orleans, but defensively we’ve made good strides, and we’ve had some younger players do some things they haven’t done before, so that’s a positive step moving forward.”
In the meantime, it has allowed younger players such as Marcus Smart to step up.
“I think [Smart’s] played pretty well. And he’s always been god competiively, he’s making shots, doing a lot of tough things. He’s playing undersized almost every night that he’s on the floor, by four inches a night usually. So he’s really doing a good job.”
One thing Smart has done so far is hit shots. Not known for being a knockdown shooter by any stretch, he’s shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point territory. Smart noted periodically throughout the offseason and into the season that he has put in quite a bit of work in improving his shot. And while that work has helped, Stevens added that his shot selection has also improved as well, allowing him to shoot higher-percentage shots.
He’ll start Wednesday night, as will Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas.