And that guarantees that Kyrie Irving will have the ball in his hands even more than usual. Not that this is a problem for the Celtics star.
He makes my job a lot easier, just because I dont have to dribble the ball as much or create as much, you have a second lead guard who can go out there and just really make decisions and make good decisions for our team, Irving said after Tuesdays practice. Its an adjustment, but its okay.
Smarty brings something that you cant really teach, just the intangibles of the game, knowing players on the floor, knowing the flow of the game, how Smarty is and just what he brings to our team in terms of leadership. Its a big time miss for us, I said it the other day, I miss him.
But if this rotational shift puts Irving more into a playmaking role, the Celtics have certainly been successful with that in the past, as evidenced by Irvings well-rounded 20-point, seven-assist, five-rebound, two-steal performance in Game 1 against Indiana.
Bojan Bogdanovic, Indianas first offensive option, was held to just 12 points on 4/11 shooting. Jaylen Brown, who started in Smarts place, played a big role in that endeavor, forcing his defensive will on the Pacers offense at every turn.
It really puts Kyrie at the point almost the whole time, Brad Stevens said of the change. You might play Al (Horford) there a little bit. You might play one of the wings on a possession or two, but mostly Kyrie will have the ball, whereas with Marcus you can really play Kyrie off the ball and he can be a cutter and those types of things.
So that limits you a little bit, said the Celtics coach. Well pay Terry (Rozier) and Gordon (Hayward) more with Kyrie than we have but I think ultimately theres going to be moments where Kyrie will have to do that. Well have one point guard on the floor.
Though the Celtics appear to have their rotation set against Indiana, Stevens is open to making changes.
We reevaluate everything every day. I dont want to overreact, he said. I dont think we played great at the start of either half (in Game 1), but I didnt think we were bad. I thought we guarded, we tried to do the right things. I thought that we had some offensive possessions that could have been better, but that was the whole game, and Indiana had a lot to do with that and I dont want to take that away from them. Well reevaluate it every day but thats what it is right now.
The Celtics, as evidenced by their 84-74 Game 1 win, had to grind for their survival. In other words, it was a game that only Smart could love. Or at least he would love it the most.
I love it. I love it, said Smart. Anybody whos been in the playoffs or knows anything about the playoffs knows its not going to be pretty. Its not going to be easy. Youre going to have games where you have to grind it out and I think weve been seeing that throughout these playoffs around the league period. You see an 8 seed beat a 1 seed and its a grind-out game. We just cant take anybodys advantage. Weve got to come out and slug it out every night.”
Anything he can do to lessen my load, Im good, said Stevens. Lets go. Hes got a good mind on him. Hes always been a guy who can think the game. Hes an inspiring guy to be around. Hes got good passion. Hes a natural born kind of leader, and talker, and hes got great instinct for the game, so hes got good ideas, hes got good thoughts. I know our guys appreciate that and value that in him, so its good to have him back in the gym and be around.
Im just trying to coach those guys up, especially on the defensive end out there, he said. Its different being a player on the court. Being off the court you see a lot of things more differently than you probably see on the court so just really keeping those guys in contact on the defensive end, calling out calls and just trying to make sure they understand the positions they need to be in and where they need to be in and where those guys are going to be in and try to help them out.
I hope he does. I think he does. He does, said Smart. Brads a great coach and he gives us as players the opportunity to be there and help him with things as if he can help us with things. Thats the mutual understanding that you need to have between coaches and players.
Celtics shooting guard Marcus Smart is making progress after suffering a partially torn oblique muscle, but his return to the court still seems a ways away.
Today was my first day being able to walk without grimacing in pain, Smart told reporters Tuesday afternoon after practice at the Auerbach Center. It still hurts real bad for me to laugh, to cough, [and] to sneeze.
Smart, who suffered the injury in the third quarter of the teams penultimate regular-season game, likened the pain to getting stabbed with a knife. He said he required assistance for basic movements, like standing up, for four or five days immediately following the injury.
Everyday activities are becoming easier for him, but walking, and even breathing, more fluidly is still at the top of his checklist before entertaining an earlier-than-expected comeback.
Much of Smarts recovery currently consists of pool exercises because being in water alleviates some of the pressure on his body. And in that environment, he said he still moves very gingerly. Smart said hes also been getting treatment around his hip bone to try and loosen up the area.
Unfortunately, with this injury, theres nothing really that anybody can do, he said. Just kind of got to let your body heal itself.
Its going to be a while, added coach Brad Stevens, who noted he hasnt requested an updated timeline since the teams original announcement that Smart would likely be out at least four weeks.
Smart said hes sticking to the doctors initial projections but hopes to start jogging within the next two weeks. The current goal is to establish a comfort level with everyday activities so that he can advance to basketball.
A member of the starting lineup since late November, Smart had missed just one game this season before suffering the injury. He was not on the bench Sunday for Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers but plans to be for Game 2 on Wednesday.
While he cant be on the floor with his teammates, he said hes still trying to stay involved by offering any tips and pointers that he can — particularly on the defensive end, where he often shines. He said Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, who both experienced season-ending injuries last year, have been huge in telling him that hes not alone.
Just really showering me with love and encouragement, he said. Obviously, theyre devastated that Im not out there and things like that, but theyre keeping me in my right mind.