Marcus Smart

Injury Updates: Russell, Bagley, Bledsoe, Smart

The Warriors got a scare tonight involving D’Angelo Russell, who remained on the ground for about five minutes after colliding with the MavericksLuka Doncic while chasing a loose ball, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic (video link).

A stretcher was brought out, but Russell was eventually able to walk off under his own power. After being checked in the locker room, he was diagnosed with a right shoulder contusion, according to Kerith Burke of NBC Sports (Twitter link), and eventually re-entered the game.

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Kings forward Marvin Bagley III has a mid-foot sprain and will miss the “next few games,” according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Bagley left Thursday’s game in the third quarter after suffering the injury. He had an MRI on Friday and met with a foot specialist today before details of his condition were announced.
  • Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe continues to recover from a fibula avulsion fracture and is nearing a return to the court, coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters before tonight’s game (video link from the team). Bledsoe may go through contact drills tomorrow in hopes of playing next week. “He’s making progress and getting close,” Budenholzer said.
  • The Celtics got Marcus Smart back tonight after an eight-game absence caused by an infection in both of his eyes, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.
  • Celtics center Robert Williams will undergo another MRI in about a week to monitor the healing of a bone edema in his left hip, Blakely adds (Twitter link). He hasn’t been able to do any basketball-related activities since the injury was discovered nearly two weeks ago.

Celtics Notes: Smart, Brown, Tatum, Kanter

Celtics guard Marcus Smart is on the upswing after a brutal case of viral conjunctivitis caused an infection in both of his eyes, sidelining him for much of December, writes ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. Smart isn’t playing today in Toronto, but thinks he’s at “about 80 percent” and is focused on getting his conditioning back to its usual level. Mostly, he’s relieved that the worst of his eye issues appear to be behind him.

“I thought I was going to go blind for a while. I think it was the worst case of viral conjunctivitis that they’ve seen,” Smart said. “… I couldn’t see. I had outdoor sunglasses everywhere. Even in the dark I was wearing sunglasses. It was that bad. Just every morning I would wake up just having sticky discharge coming out of my eyes, sealing my eyes shut. It was really just gross.”

With Gordon Hayward back in their lineup today, the Celtics appear to be getting close to getting fully healthy. In the meantime, let’s round up a few more notes out of Boston:

  • Although the Celtics look capable of vying for a spot in the NBA Finals, finding the one last piece to cement their place as a contender will be difficult, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who outlines why the club may not be able to make a significant trade this winter. We touched on a similar topic last week.
  • Terry Rozier is impressed with how his former teammates Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum has looked this season, suggesting that the two young wings are “superstars in the making,” as Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald details. “I’m not just saying it. Them guys put the work in,” Rozier said. “They really care. They want to learn the game, and them boys can really play.”
  • Celtics big man Enes Kanter isn’t taking today’s game in Toronto for granted. Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston explains why Kanter’s safety may be at risk when he travels outside the United States.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Thomas, Burke, Smart

Sixers center Joel Embiid called on his team to play a tougher brand of basketball after a recent tough stretch, one that saw the team lose two straight home games in three days. Before these losses, Philadelphia led the NBA with a 14-0 record at home.

“I feel like, especially tonight, we were playing scared,” Embiid said of the team’s loss against Dallas on Friday, as relayed by Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “Basketball is easy. You just shoot it, pass it, move it. If you don’t got a shot just pass it.

“But tonight, like I said, we didn’t make shots, and defensively we were pretty bad.”

Philadelphia also lost to Miami at home before Friday’s game against Dallas, with both opponents challenging the club by playing a rare brand of zone defense.

Embiid finished with 22 points and 19 rebounds against Miami, following it up with a 33-point, 17-rebound performance against Dallas. The Sixers did manage to defend home court against the Wizards on Saturday, however, winning that game 125-108.

“I think that the influence that our inability lately, to, like, be put on our back heels against the zone has crept into our defense, our psyche, our spirit,” coach Brett Brown said. “And I can’t stand it.

“This is not who we are. It’s not who we are. … I love coaching these guys, because I respect them. And I feel like our competitive spirit has taken a dent because of our inability to score, and I think that any time you get into a mood swing that affects your defense because your offense is doing something, it needs to be addressed.”

The Sixers have a 21-10 record and are six games out of first place in the East, trailing the Bucks, Celtics, Heat and Raptors as of Sunday night. They have upcoming games scheduled against the Pistons on Monday and Bucks on Christmas Day.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic Division:

  • The two Sixers fans who played a role in the confrontation with Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas on Saturday night have received a one-year ban from Wells Fargo Center, according to ESPN. A 76ers spokesperson said the fans admitted to using explicit language and gestures toward Thomas, who walked into the spectator stands and approached the duo before being ejected. “I said: ‘Don’t be disrespectful. I’m a man before anything. Be a fan.’ His response was, ‘I’m sorry, I just wanted a Frosty,'” Thomas said. The Sixers held a promotion where fans would be awarded a free Frosty in the event that an opposing player missed two straight free throws.
  • Celtics coach Brad Stevens said that Marcus Smart (eye infection) is improving, but the 25-year-old is still unlikely to play on Christmas Day against Toronto, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston tweets. “Marcus Smart is doing better. He was … going to the facility tonight to get on the floor and shoot a little bit.” Smart hasn’t done much work since the month started, with the team planning on ramping up his activities in the coming days.
  • Sixers guard Trey Burke is continuing to thrive in limited opportunities, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Burke finished with 12 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes of work against Washington, shooting 5-of-6 from the floor.

Celtics Notes: Kemba, Stevens, Injuries, Tacko

New Celtics point guard Kemba Walker is excited to see what his team can achieve on the court when they reach full health. Currently, injuries to Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams and Vincent Poirier are precluding Walker — and fans — from bearing witness to what that could look like.

“Man, we haven’t had our full roster yet,” Walker lamented, according to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg. “I can’t wait for it. It’s been unfortunate. But when we do …” Their 19-7 record slots the Celtics at the No. 2 seed in the East, by percentage points over the Heat.

There’s more out of TD Garden:

  • Former Celtic Kendrick Perkins, the starting center on the squad’s last title team in 2008, has picked Boston head coach Brad Stevens as a frontrunner for 2020 NBA Coach of the Year honors, as NBC Sports Boston’s Justin Leger documents. Perkins singled out Stevens’ “next man up” ethos in the wake of Boston’s myriad injuries thus far. Granted, Perkins achieved his biggest career success in Boston, but he also has three former head coaches elsewhere in the league: Doc Rivers on the Clippers, Alvin Gentry on the Pelicans, and Scott Brooks on the Wizards. Perkins’ former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue is the lead assistant coach on Rivers’ staff.
  • 7’5″ two-way rookie center Tacko Fall‘s regular season home debut last night offered an interesting look into the team’s dynamic chemistry, NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg notes. Fall is averaging 4.5 points and 2.5 rebounds across his first two NBA games.
  • The latest injury update on Gordon Hayward is significantly more promising than Marcus Smart‘s current status. Coach Brad Stevens doubts Hayward’s lingering foot injury will be a long-term issue, and an MRI taken Thursday showed no structural damage. Smart, meanwhile, has missed the past four games with an eye infection. Stevens revealed a troubling anecdote from his medical staff. “The last report I got (from the training staff), they didn’t think they’ve seen one this bad,” Stevens said, according to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg.

Eastern Notes: VanVleet, Smart, Porter, Giannis

Having thrived as the Raptors‘ starting point guard without Kyle Lowry in the lineup for the team’s last 11 contests, Fred VanVleet may be raising the value of his next contract with each game, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. During that Lowry-less stretch, Toronto has a 9-2 record and VanVleet has averaged 21.2 PPG, 7.5 APG, and 2.4 SPG with a .402 3PT%.

VanVleet will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and Lewenberg speculates that Malcolm Brogdon‘s four-year, $85MM deal from this past offseason could end up being the baseline for the Raptors’ point guard if he keeps up his current pace.

In an appearance on Brian Windhorst’s ESPN podcast (hat tip to RealGM), Bobby Marks said he heard from one team last week that believes VanVleet may even command between $25-30MM next summer, with a handful of rebuilding clubs among the candidates to make a run at the Raptors’ up-and-coming star using cap space. “I almost fell off my chair when they told me that,” Marks admitted.

When I ranked 2020’s free agents last month, I placed VanVleet all the way up at No. 7 and questioned whether that was too high. The way his season is going, he may rank even higher the next time we revisit that list.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been banged up all year, a trend that continued on Sunday when he took a shot to his abdomen while drawing an offensive foul. Smart, who missed the rest of the game, has been reluctant to sit out at all this season, but admitted to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald that he may not be able to return right away from his latest injury, which he believes is an oblique issue. A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston explored what it would mean for the C’s if their hard-nosed guard misses some time.
  • Otto Porter is the Bulls‘ highest-paid player and the team has badly missed his experience on both ends of the floor during his absence with a foot injury, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “He settles us down a bit, maybe at times we need that,” head coach Jim Boylen said of the veteran forward. “He makes timely shots. He’s one of our better shooters. And he has positional size, which is a huge part of that big wing position. We miss those things.”
  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has been better this year than he was last year when he won the MVP, Alex Boeder of NBA.com contends. Boeder identifies an improved three-point shot and a lower turnover rate as evidence of the Greek Freak’s leap.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Atlantic Notes: Walker, Embiid, Kanter

Celtics point guard Kemba Walker will return to the court tonight less than a week after he collided head-to-head with teammate Semi Ojeleye and had to be taken off the court in a stretcher.

“It was a scary moment for myself,” Walker said (via Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com). “When I was in the moment, it was pretty tough to be in, obviously. I know it was scary for everybody…It was tough, but thank God I’m OK.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com (video link) hears that scouts around the league aren’t worried about Joel Embiid. Embiid has struggled this season (by his standards) with a new-look roster around him on the Sixers.
  • Enes Kanter says he is “disappointed that former Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving won’t be making a return to the court in Boston today, as Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston relays. “We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, and now he’s hurt and not playing? I’m really disappointed. But there’s two games, of course, and he’s going to come back. And… we’re going to welcome him somehow,” Kanter said.
  • Former Celtics guard Tony Allen said he’s long been a fan of Marcus Smart‘s game and applauds Smart’s improvement from behind the arc, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald passes along. “I won’t say he’s my protégé, really, but he’s become that 3-and-D player everyone wants,” Allen said. “With what he does defensively, he’s also become a shooter. He’s really transitioned to the new game.”

Marcus Smart Opens Up About Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving didn’t officially leave the Celtics until July, but he started withdrawing from his teammates long before then, Marcus Smart tells Jay King of The Athletic. Smart offers a look inside what was frequently portrayed as a dysfunctional locker room last season as Boston failed to meet lofty expectations.

“It’s not that we didn’t know how to act (around him),” Smart said. “It’s that we didn’t know how he was going to act. We didn’t know what his moods were and we didn’t know what Kyrie was going through. And that made it tough on us because if somebody’s going through something in their life and you don’t really know what it is, it’s kind of hard to see what’s wrong with him, it’s kind of hard to (provide) some help. It’s not against Kyrie, it’s just a defense mechanism as a human being you have. And he wasn’t here long enough to really be able to open up the way he probably wanted to, and it probably got to him a little bit.”

Smart’s comments come before Irving and the Nets are scheduled to make their first trip of the season to Boston tomorrow night. Irving, who is sidelined with a shoulder impingement, won’t play and may not be in the building, but King notes that the memory of his two years with the Celtics will affect the franchise for years to come.

The toxic atmosphere played a role in Al Horford‘s decision to opt out of his contract and sign with the Sixers. The loss of Irving and Horford cost the Celtics any chance to make a play for Anthony Davis after years of building up assets. Davis can opt out of his current deal next summer and wouldn’t consider re-signing in Boston unless he was surrounded by star power.

The height of Irving’s popularity with Celtics fans came at an event for season ticket holders last October when he promised to re-sign with the team. But he slowly walked back those comments throughout the year as the Celtics underachieved and he was frequently seen as the cause.

Boston entered last season as heavy favorites to win the East based on the strong playoff performance of young players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, who reached the conference finals the previous year while Irving and Gordon Hayward were sidelined with injuries. But there was an uneasy balance as those players weren’t always willing to take a back seat with the two stars returning.

Irving didn’t help matters with comments to the press about the difficulty of managing “the young guys.” He admitted during Brooklyn’s media day in September that he failed the Celtics as a leader and said the death of his grandfather last October affected him emotionally.

“A lot of basketball and the joy I had from it was sucked away from me,” Irving said. “There was a facial expression that I carried around with me throughout the year. Didn’t allow anyone to get close to me in that instance, and it really bothered me.”

A pivotal part of the year came after the Celtics took a 1-0 lead over the Bucks in the Eastern semifinals after sweeping the Pacers in the first round. A witness tells King that Irving “disconnected” from the team at a voluntary practice the next day, sitting by himself in the stands while his teammates worked on the court. He shot 30.1% for the rest of the series as Boston was eliminated in five games.

The Celtics moved on quickly from Irving once he made his free agent decision. They reached a deal with Kemba Walker and started to rebuild the team-first culture that coach Brad Stevens has always emphasized. The result, according to sources inside the organization, is a much more positive and relaxed atmosphere.

“We don’t have to worry about doing stuff on our own,” Smart said. “We don’t have to worry about being in our own minds and just think it. We can actually talk. Last year, everybody didn’t know what to say. They didn’t know if they could speak, if they could speak to anybody, or somebody, or a group, and they didn’t know how the reaction would go. It was just different. This year is different. Everybody’s not holding anything in. If we have anything to say, we’re saying it and we’re moving on from it.”

Kemba Walker Collides With Teammate, Has Neck Sprain

NOVEMBER 24: Tim Bontemps of ESPN reports that Walker’s injury, incurred in his collision with Ojeleye in a Nuggets game on Friday, has been ruled a neck sprain. Bontempts reports that Walker has been listed as doubtful for tomorrow’s tilt against the Kings.

Bontemps relayed that Boston head coach Brad Stevens mentioned that Walker might be able to play through the pain, but preached caution: “Head injuries and neck injuries are scary. That’s why he’s doubtful to be honest.”

NOVEMBER 22: Kemba Walker, one of the prizes of this summer’s free agent class, has concussion-like symptoms after colliding with teammate Semi Ojeleye, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Early indications are that Walker did not suffer a serious injury, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Walker has been transported to a Denver area hospital for further evaluation, the team’s PR department tweets.

Walker was injured in the first half of Friday’s game against the Nuggets while trying to make a steal. He had his head down trying to control the ball and banged into Ojeleye’s mid-section. He was taken off on a stretcher.

Walker has been a major part of Boston’s hot start, averaging 22.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 4.8 APG. Walker signed a four-year, max deal with the Celtics early in free agency.

If he needs to miss multiple games, Marcus Smart, Brad Wanamaker and rookie Carsen Edwards could all receive increased minutes.

Celtics Notes: Walker, Smart, Wanamaker, Tatum

Celtics players view the injury that Kemba Walker suffered Friday in Denver as a chance to prove they can overcome adversity, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. The team provided an update on Walker’s condition in a tweet this morning, declaring him doubtful for tomorrow’s game with the Kings because of a neck sprain. There’s no word on how long he might be out of action.

Walker was carried off the court after colliding with teammate Semi Ojeleye while chasing a loose ball. He was taken to an area hospital, but was released in time to join the Celtics for their flight back to Boston. Bulpett notes that Walker experienced neck problems while playing in the FIBA World Cup this summer.

“You always miss one of your better guys, but it’s just the circumstance right now,” Marcus Smart said. “He’s injured. But I think it gives us a lot of confidence to understand that we can still compete with anybody when he’s gone. So when he comes back, I mean, we’re just going to be that much better, you know? So that’s what it’s about. I can’t wait ’til he gets back, personally.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Smart is unhappy with the way the Nuggets handled an exchange with a fan during Friday’s game, Bulpett relays in a separate story. Smart claims he was taunted after going out of bounds, and he doesn’t believe security did anything about it. “We’re going to end up protecting ourselves eventually, and it’s not going to be pretty for the fans, and we don’t want that,” he said. “The league doesn’t want that, we don’t want that as players, but at some point you’ve got to stand up and you’ve got to protect yourself as a man.”
  • Brad Wanamaker has shown some encouraging signs that he can fill in for Walker while he’s sidelined, notes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Wanamaker averaged 11 PPG during the five-game road trip while shooting 51.5% from the field and 50% from 3-point range.
  • Jayson Tatum is probably the NBA’s thriftiest player, according to Kathleen Elkins of CNBC. Tatum, who has a $7.83MM salary this season, puts all his checks from the Celtics into savings and lives on the money he makes from endorsements. “When I picked my agent, I told him I want to do as much off-the-court stuff as I can,” Tatum recently told The Boston Globe. “Right now I’m young, so I try to do everything as much as possible. … Tomorrow is not promised. You’re not promised the next contract. You want to save all the money you can.”

Celtics Notes: Rivers, Tatum, Brown, Irving

The Celtics are off to the best start in the East, and even Clippers coach Doc Rivers has noticed how much better the atmosphere surrounding the team has been, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Rivers, whose team hosts the Celtics tonight, attributes the difference to personnel changes.

“Last year you had Gordon (Hayward) and Kyrie (Irving) both coming back from being out,” Rivers said. “Gordon hadn’t played the whole year before, and Kyrie hadn’t played in a while either, so they hadn’t really played together. And they just never could get their traction. The rest of it, I stay out of. I’ll let y’all deal with that.”

Rivers was referring to locker room differences that sabotaged a team that entered the season as a favorite to reach the NBA Finals. He noted that coach Brad Stevens seems much happier on the sidelines this year.

“It’s a great lesson for all of us. Chemistry is so important,” Rivers said. “Chemistry and youth, you know, they had both going at them. They were expecting guys in their second year to just take over, and sometimes that takes a little while. It’s just good to see them playing well now.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • The Celtics have been enjoying success with smaller lineups, but that might not work in the playoffs against Joel Embiid and the Sixers or other tall teams like the Bucks and Raptors, states Brian Windhorst of ESPN. A source tells Windhorst that Boston won’t offer its core players in any deal, including Marcus Smart and Hayward, who have been mentioned as trade possibilities before. Outside of their top five, the only players making more than $4MM are centers Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter, which becomes challenging for matching salaries.
  • President of basketball operations Danny Ainge addressed the possibility of adding another big man in an interview with Bulpett. “It’s always about who,” Ainge said. “It’s not, like, how tall they are. It’s not like you can just go find any seven-foot guy and put him out there and all of a sudden you’re going to be better. It depends on who that is and whether they’re better than Marcus Smart guarding the center. So I don’t worry so much about that. I mean, obviously we have stars at every other position and we really don’t have stars at our big positions. So everybody thinks that that’s what we need to do, but it all depends on who that is.”
  • Roster changes have allowed Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to expand their roles, giving the Celtics two big wings that most teams can’t match up with, observes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer.
  • Celtics fans may not get a chance to welcome Irving back in his first scheduled game in Boston since leaving in free agency, tweets Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Irving missed his third straight game tonight with a shoulder impingement, and Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson refused to speculate if he will be healthy enough for next Wednesday.