The Celtics don’t reveal a ton about what happens behind their closed-door practices, but there were a couple of significant narratives that developed in the preseason.
Chief among them was the development of the bench which on many occasions, outplayed the starters.
Leading the second team surge on many days in the preseason was Marcus Smart, whose absence during the first two games of the season has been obvious.
Smart suffered a left ankle sprain injury in the Celtics’ final preseason game, an injury that CSNNE.com reported at the time would sideline him for a couple of weeks.
A few days later, Smart confirmed the report by indicating he would be out of action for two weeks from the time of the injury.
That puts his return to the floor being Nov. 3 at Cleveland which would mean he would be missing the first four games of the season.
One of the reasons why the second unit had so much success against the starters, was the rhythm they developed playing with and off one another.
Trying to re-establish that on the fly without Smart has proven to be challenging at times for Boston’s second unit.
In the season-opening win over Brooklyn, Boston’s second unit was called upon to simply hold down a lead in the fourth quarter that peaked at 23. But the lead steadily shrunk and head coach Brad Stevens was forced to bring his starters back into the game.
And last night at Chicago, the second unit was never able to deliver the kind of impact-making plays that Boston’s backups can do.
But it goes beyond what Smart can do on the floor when he plays. Like most of his teammates, Smart’s presence has a way of allowing his other teammates to get into a rhythm and get accustomed to whatever role they are asked to play.
Without him, everyone’s job shifts just a little bit.
“They’re trying to figure it out on the fly,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “They had a few practices, maybe one tough day of practice without him; it’s tough. They’re trying to figure it out. There’s no other way to figure it out but in the game.”