Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been cleared to return to action with Team USA, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Post. Smart has been sidelined for more than a week with a calf injury, and getting him back will help offset the unexpected loss of De’Aaron Fox, who withdrew from the team today.
Smart expressed confidence that he was close to playing again in an interview with Jared Greenberg of NBA TV during Friday’s exhibition game with Spain (video link). “Like I said, the calf is feeling amazing,” Smart said. “And, right now, we’re just taking it slow and making sure I’m a hundred percent and (then) get back out there.”
Smart appears to be in great position to earn a roster spot after the departures of Fox and fellow point guard Kyle Lowry in the past week. Team USA has 13 players left on its training camp roster, with just one cut to make before the FIBA World Cup begins.
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- The Celtics should honor Smart by making him the team captain this fall, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Smart’s leadership has been evident for a long time, Blakely observes, adding that the organization has an opportunity to recognize him in an official way. Boston hasn’t had a captain since Rajon Rondo in 2014, and Blakely contends that Smart, who is the longest-tenured Celtic and still has three years left on his contract, is a natural choice.
- Derek Bodner of The Athletic examines the expected battle for backup point guard minutes between Sixers newcomers Raul Neto and Trey Burke. Both veterans signed minimum salary contracts this summer and both will try to fill the void created when T.J. McConnell left for the Pacers. Bodner notes that Burke has received more playing time than Neto over his career, but he has also been on worse teams that offered greater opportunity. He adds that Neto prefers to read the defense on any given play, while Burke tends to seek his own shots.
- Malachi Richardson, who saw infrequent playing time for the Raptors last season, has signed with Hapoel Holon in Israel, relays Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Richardson appeared in 22 games for Toronto before being traded at the deadline to the Sixers, who waived him.