Celtics

Irving: It was 'awesome' playing with LeBron James

Irving: It was 'awesome' playing with LeBron James

BOSTON -- For most of Kyrie Irving’s joint press conference with Gordon Hayward, the name LeBron James seemed as though it would not be uttered. 
 
Irving, who asked for a trade in part to get from under James’s shadow, was well aware of the rumors about he and LeBron not being on the best of terms even before his trade demand. 

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Those rumors won’t die anytime soon, but on Friday Irving did speak to their relationship and what it has meant to him both as a person and a player. 
 
While they have been teammates for the past three years, Irving indicated the two had a prior friendship. That certainly helped with the transition. 

“I would be sitting up here telling you guys a lie if I didn’t tell you how much I learned from that guy,” Irving said. “The perfection of the craft comes in a variety of forms, and you watch and you watch and you ask a lot of the great players, what does it take to be great?
 
Irving added: “I’ve had the unique opportunity to play with one of the greats. It was awesome. At times, it was all over just like it is in any other team. And when you look back, you’re eternally grateful for the moments that you had and you shared. You’re able to be at peace with that journey and start anew.”
 
Based on Irving’s comments, it seems that more than anything else, an opportunity to continue his growth as a player, was the driving force behind his decision to ask for a trade despite being on a team that had made three straight trips to the NBA Finals and was once again an early favorite to make it four in a row. 
 
“This was a very, very challenging decision at first,” Irving said. “But after a while, you understand and you have that confidence in yourself and understand the magnitude of what you can accomplish and potentially do. Now that I’m sitting here, it just echoes in me of being appreciative of not only the Cleveland fans, all of Ohio, as well as ‘Bron and that special team we had in Cleveland. Three finals in a row. All the shared memories . . . the brotherhood exists even without all this and it will continue. That’s exactly where it is.”
 
 

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Marcus Smart is fortunate to be returning this season

Marcus Smart is fortunate to be returning this season

BOSTON – When it comes to sports-related injuries, much like the games that are played, it really does become a matter of inches.

For Marcus Smart, that minuscule a distance was the difference between his right-hand laceration after punching a picture frame keeping him sidelined for a few weeks or ending his season.

Fortunately for Smart, the former proved to be his fate as he rejoined the Celtics for practice on Wednesday after missing the previous 11 games.

“I’m back. It feels good to be back with these guys and the coaching staff,” Smart said.

But after the incident which required 20 stitches, Smart said the doctors explained to him how fortunate he was that the injury wasn’t more severe and wouldn’t require season-ending surgery.

“They pulled a glass piece out of the palm of my hand,” Smart said. “And they said there two tendons that ran along the pinkie and the glass was sitting right in between them.

Smart said if the glass would have hit the tendons he would have most likely had to have season-ending surgery.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was aware of how close Boston was at losing Smart for the rest of the season.

“It was … I’m sure he would second this, it wasn’t a very good move,” Stevens said. “You don’t want to put yourself in that risk. Luckily, what happened, happened. His hand looks a lot better and that is encouraging.”

Said Smart: “I felt I let my team down. But I got a second chance to come back and redeem myself.”

As reported by NBC Sports Boston earlier today, Smart has been given the medical clearance to suit up for Boston’s next game which is at Detroit on Friday.

His return comes at a time when the Celtics (40-19) are looking to get back on track after what has been a rough patch of games recently.

Boston has lost three straight and four of its last five games. And the lone victory was an overtime win against the Washington Wizards.

Since Smart’s injury, the Celtics have gone 6-5 in his absence.

And within those 11 games, Boston’s numbers on several fronts have taken a slight dip.

Boston’s top-ranked defense slipped down to No. 11 with a defensive rating of 105.2 within the last 11 games missed by Smart.

And the success Boston has experienced this season has been heavily influenced by the play of Smart.

His defensive rating this season is 98.9 which stands out on several levels, the most notable one being how he stacks up against others defensively that log major minutes.

Among players that average at least 30 minutes per game, Smart’s defensive rating of 98.9 is tops among in the league with teammates Jayson Tatum (99.8, third in the league), Jaylen Brown (100.3, fifth) and Al Horford (101.0, seventh) all ranked among the league’s leaders.

Not surprisingly, Smart’s teammates are excited to have him back in the fold.

“There’s no question having Marcus back, makes our defense a lot better,” Horford said.

Boston’s Kyrie Irving echoed similar sentiments about Smart.

“He adds a very unique understanding of the game, at both ends of the floor,” Irving said. “We all know how great he is defensively, so he adds to our team … it’s great.”

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Marcus Smart cleared to play Friday

Marcus Smart cleared to play Friday

According to league sources, Celtics guard Marcus Smart was back in Boston on Tuesday and had a private workout with the team. He has been officially cleared to practice tonight and play Friday when the Celtics return after the All-Star break to play the Pistons in Detroit.

Smart has been out since he lacerated his hand swiping at a picture frame in his hotel room after a Celtics' loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Jan. 25.

The Celtics have lost three in a row and four of five heading into the All-Star break to drop behind the Toronto Raptors for the best record in the East and losing Smart's defense has been a key part of their recent slump.