BOSTON – The good news is that Marcus Smart’s left ankle injury isn’t expected to keep him sidelined too long.
But as CSNNE.com first reported shortly after the injury on Wednesday night, Smart is expected to miss at least two weeks.
If he were to return to the Celtics lineup after missing the next two weeks, that would put him back on the floor for Nov. 3 game at Cleveland – Boston’s fifth game of the season.
So who will fill the void left by Smart being out of the lineup?
That will be worked out in the coming days, but all indications are that the bulk of Smart’s minutes will be doled out to Terry Rozier.
Having already established himself as the benefactor of the playing time doled out last season to Evan Turner who is now in Portland, look for Rozier’s role to expand even more in the first few games.
We saw what Rozier could do when given a chance to play an expanded role, which is what he had on Wednesday when he got the starting nod as head coach Brad Stevens rested most of his starters.
Stevens didn’t play Rozier in the second half, but that still didn’t prevent him from putting up some impressive numbers. He finished with 13 points, two assist, two rebounds and a steal while logging just 14 minutes.
“Obviously he’s going to have the ball with us,” Stevens said of Rozier. “He’s really, really improved as a shooter and scorer, and that’s been something that he’s worked hard on. So he’s a grinder. He works hard at the game and it’s no surprise that he’s having success. But we need him to, to be quite candid. We’re going to rely on him.”
And the load he’ll be asked to carry will only become greater with Smart’s injury.
In the preseason, Rozier averaged 9.6 points per game while shooting 54 percent from the field (27-for-50) and 60 percent (9-for-15) on 3s while averaging just over 17 minutes per game.
“My confidence plays a big part in that,” Rozier said. “This summer I spent so many hours in the gym just working on my shot. Now it just feels like it’s a flow for me. It’s my job to make it because I work on it every day.”
And that work does not go unnoticed, especially by Stevens.
Knowing where Rozier was a year ago to where he’s at now, there has been tremendous growth in his all-around game.
But when it comes to his greatest area of growth, Stevens didn’t hesitate to point out what that was.
“Just consistency and putting the ball in the basket, what I would say would probably be the greatest area of growth,” Stevens said. “He’s gotten better defensively; we need him to continue to grow in that area, we need him to be a really good defender for us – especially at that position, coming off the bench in the league.”
Those opportunities will only increase with Smart’s left ankle injury.
Only time will tell if Rozier is indeed up to the challenge.