Celtics Rumors

Marcus Smart Expected To Play In Game 5

4:26pm: Stevens said that Smart felt great after the morning shootaround and is expected to play Tuesday, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweets.

11:03am: The potential return date for Celtics guard Marcus Smart keeps getting moved up. After initially aiming to play in a possible Game 7 in the first round, Smart said over the weekend that he may actually be back for Game 6 against the Bucks. Now, it appears he could suit up for the C’s in Game 5 on Tuesday night.

As Taylor Snow of Celtics.com details, head coach Brad Stevens said Smart’s injured right thumb was re-evaluated on Monday and he has been given the OK to return, as long as he clears a few more hurdles leading up to tonight’s game.

“He still has to go through some things later this morning after our shootaround, and then we’ll see how he feels after that,” Stevens said. “If he feels good, then he’s been cleared physically to go. If he has any pain or anything comes up, then we’ll hold him out.”

Given how eager Smart has been to return to the Celtics’ lineup, it’s hard to imagine him not playing on Tuesday in Boston now that he has received medical clearance. If he’s able to play, it will be his first game since March 11 — he underwent surgery on March 16 to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb.

While Smart’s offensive numbers this season (10.2 PPG on .367/.301/.729 shooting) were modest, he’s one of the Celtics’ most important defensive players. And with Kyrie Irving sidelined, Smart’s return will help provide more depth in Boston’s backcourt, taking some pressure off Terry Rozier at the point.

Poll: Will Eastern Favorites Survive Round One?

On Monday night, the Rockets and Jazz took commanding leads in their respective first-round series, joining the Warriors among the Western teams holding a 3-1 edge. In the fourth Western Conference series, the Pelicans have already advanced, so barring an unlikely comeback by the Timberwolves, Thunder, or Spurs, it looks like we may not get much more drama out west in round one.

The same can’t be said for the Eastern Conference though. Heading into Tuesday night, three of four series are tied at two games apiece, and the Sixers/Heat matchup – where Philadelphia holds a 3-1 lead – has also been entertaining and competitive.

While the Raptors, Cavaliers, and Celtics are still the favorites to advance to the second round, there are areas of concern for all three clubs heading into Game 5. The Raps fell back on same old playoff habits in Game 4 when they failed to move the ball as effectively as they have for much of the season; the Cavs’ supporting cast around LeBron James has been inconsistent; and the C’s have just been hit hard by injuries, though Marcus Smart‘s return appears imminent.

Meanwhile, the opponents in those three series are flawed, but dangerous. The Wizards are led by a pair of All-Stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal, and that backcourt can be hard to stop when it gets going; the Bucks have one of the NBA’s best players in Giannis Antetokounmpo; and the Pacers are a deep and well-coached squad headed by a potential All-NBA guard in Victor Oladipo.

We’ve essentially got a trio of best-of-three series on our hands in the East, and while it’s still possible that we won’t get any upsets, the underdogs have proven that they’ll make things difficult for the conference’s top seeds.

What do you think? Will the Raptors, Celtics, and Cavaliers all survive their first-round scares or will one or more of those teams get bounced in the first round? Vote below in our poll, then jump into the comment section to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Marcus Smart Hoping To Return For Game 6

Marcus Smart hasn’t played since early March because of a thumb injury, but he hopes to only miss one more game for the Celtics.

“Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said earlier today (via Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com). “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart will have his thumb reevaluated on Tuesday in New York and he believes that he’ll be cleared to play.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart.“Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

Boston lost the last two games against Milwaukee to bring the series to 2-2. Smart has been participating in shootarounds before each of the Celtics’ playoff games, in an effort to avoid being rusty upon return and being comfortable in the splint he will have to wear on his finger.

“Actually [the splint and tape is] real comfortable. It feels like nothing’s there,” he said. “To have that comfortability, especially in my dominant hand, my shooting hand, that’s a good feeling to have.”

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Capela, Conley, Barnes

The Lakers might be the logical landing spot if the Spurs decide not to offer Kawhi Leonard a supermax deal or if he tells them he’ll walk after next season, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe speculates. Leonard can opt out of his deal next summer and the Spurs would want to acquire assets rather than wind up with nothing, as the Thunder experienced when Kevin Durant bolted, Washburn continues.  The Lakers have enough assets to make such a deal happen, but the Celtics would likely decline the Spurs’ advances if they were asked to give up Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and a first-rounder for him, Washburn adds.

In other news around the Southwest Division:

  • Clint Capela‘s value to the Rockets hasn’t gone unnoticed and should lead to a lucrative offseason for the impending restricted free agent, as Stefano Fusaro of The Undefeated notes. Houston went 42-3 this season when Capela, Chris Paul and James Harden were all in the lineup, and Paul told Fusaro it’s no coincidence. “Y’all know the record when we all play together, and I’ll tell you it’s not because of me and James,” Paul said. “Clint is really the X factor. He opens up so much for us.”
  • Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley anticipates playing a full season after his injury-marred 2017/18 campaign, the team’s PR department tweets. Conley opted for season-ending heel surgery in late January after appearing in just 12 games. “Thankfully I had the surgery early enough to where I have a full summer of work and getting my body ready for an 82-game season,” Conley told reporters.
  • Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes wants to play for the U.S. national team again, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports. Barnes, who had a limited role in the 2016 Olympics, is one of 35 players USA Basketball has named as candidates to play in the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Olympics. “Everybody would love to play in a World Cup and the Olympics,” Barnes told Sefko. “Those are bucket-list experiences. If I could be included in that group, it would be really special.”

Marcus Smart To Be Re-Evaluated Next Week

Celtics guard Marcus Smart may be getting closer to a return, writes Marc D’Amico of NBA.com. Smart, who had surgery on his right thumb and has been sidelined since March 12, will be re-evaluated next week, coach Brad Stevens told reporters today.

“He’s doing everything in a workout that you can do,” Stevens said. “It’s just a matter of being cleared for live play.” He added that the Celtics intend to use Smart as soon as he is cleared for full contact.

Could Terry Rozier Lead His Own Team One Day?

  • A pair of Atlantic Division point guards have developed slowly over time. Now, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer wonders if Delon Wright and Terry Rozier could eventually leave the Raptors and Celtics for a chance to play a bigger role on another squad. Both players will be eligible for extensions this offseason, and Toronto and Boston may not have the cap flexibility to invest in them for the long term.

Celtics Notes: Under-The-Radar Moves, Long-Term Cap Outlook

  • The Kyrie Irving blockbuster and the Celtics‘ lack of activity at the trade deadline generated most of the headlines during the 2017/18 league year, but Danny Ainge has done a nice job filling out the roster with under-the-radar acquisitions, writes Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com. Forsberg points to the signings of players like Aron Baynes, Shane Larkin, and Daniel Theis as moves that paid off for Boston.
  • While the Celtics have done an admirable job complementing their big veteran contracts with affordable rookie deals, the team will have to look ahead and consider which players are long-term keepers when their youngsters start getting second contracts, tweets Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. As Mannix notes, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier will be up for raises soon, with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to follow down the road.

Latest On Kawhi Leonard

The Spurs continue to insist they won’t consider trading Kawhi Leonard this summer, but it’s getting harder to believe, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Stein suggested last month that coach Gregg Popovich should have a one-on-one discussion with Leonard after the season to repair the relationship. Now he writes that it may be too late for that to make a difference.

Rumors of strained feelings between Leonard and the Spurs have escalated in the playoffs as he chose to remain with his doctors in New York rather fly to California to support his teammates. Popovich, who has taken veiled shots at Leonard before, raised them to a new level in responding to a question about LaMarcus Aldridge after Monday’s game.

“He plays through everything,” Popovich said of Aldridge. “I can’t imagine being more proud of a player as far as playing through adversity and being there for his teammates night after night after night. He’s been fantastic.”

While Aldridge is deserving of the kind words, the double meaning was clearly aimed at Leonard, who hasn’t been with the Spurs despite receiving medical clearance from team doctors in February. He remains in New York after traveling there last month to consult with his personal physicians about treatment for a lingering quad injury that limited him to nine games this season.

San Antonio will face a major decision in July when Leonard becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension that would pay him more than $200MM. If Leonard doesn’t agree to an extension and the Spurs refuse to trade him, the clock will being ticking toward next summer when he can opt out of a $21.33MM salary and become an unrestricted free agent.

There’s more news today regarding Leonard:

  • The Spurs have expected for weeks that Leonard wouldn’t return for the playoffs, relays Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Bontemps expresses similar doubts about Leonard’s future in San Antonio, although the relationship with Popovich remains solid. Nearly every team will be interested if Leonard becomes available in trade, but Bontemps expects the Lakers and Clippers to be among the most active, along with the Sixers, who could offer Markelle Fultz and two first-round picks in this year’s draft. He also mentions the Celtics, who are stocked with young talent, and the Cavaliers, who might be willing to part with the unprotected Nets’ pick in an effort to convince LeBron James to stay.
  • Popovich denied his comments on Aldridge were directed at Leonard, relays Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Told that a lot of people were interpreting his words that way, Popovich responded, “Who are these lots of people? Who are they? Did you count them? I think you just made that up.”
  • Aldridge serves as a reminder that broken relationships between teams and players can be repaired, notes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Aldridge issued a trade request last summer, but Popovich smoothed things over in an offseason meeting that led to Aldridge signing a three-year extension and turning in his best season since coming to San Antonio.
  • Don’t forget to vote in our poll on what the Spurs should do about the Leonard situation this summer.

Gordon Hayward Enters Next Step Of Rehab

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is ready for the next step in his rehab process, writes Abby Chin of NBC Sports Boston.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge announced this morning that Hayward is going to Indianapolis to work with a top specialist in running mechanics. The goal of the visit is to help him improve his form as he continues to recover from a fractured left ankle. The Celtics and Hayward both have prior experience with the specialist.

Ainge added that Hayward continues to make encouraging progress from the brutal opening-night injury that wiped out his first season in Boston. Hayward was shown jogging on the court with Celtics trainer Jason Smeathers in a recent video.

Horford, Rozier Integral To Celtics' Success

  • Al Horford and Terry Rozier were among the key contributors in the Celtics‘ Game 1 win over Milwaukee on Sunday. In separate pieces for NBC Sports Boston, A. Sherrod Blakely explores how the franchise is getting its money’s worth out of its investment in Horford, and examines how Rozier has become an integral part of the Celtics’ roster. Rozier will be extension-eligible for the first time this offseason.