Celtics

Horford and Tatum return to practice

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Horford and Tatum return to practice

WALTHAM, Mass. – The extra days of practice could not have come at a better time for the Boston Celtics, with key players sitting out to rest their bumps and bruises leading up to Tuesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Both Al Horford (left knee/calf injury) and Jayson Tatum (left knee) returned to the practice floor on Monday after missing practice on Saturday.

“It’s responding better,” said Horford who plans to play against the Pelicans on Tuesday. “I’m excited for the game tomorrow.”

Tatum echoed similar sentiments.

“It’s feeling a lot better. I just tweaked it in the game in London,” said Tatum who like Horford, confirmed he too planned to be in Boston’s lineup against New Orleans. “And on a long plane ride, it got stiff. We had a few days off from practice. They just told me to rest the other day in practice.”

Monday was Boston’s second practice since returning to town following their five-day London stay which included an 11-point win over Philadelphia last week which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to seven in a row and improved their East-leading record to 34-10.

The added time in between games will provide Boston an opportunity to tighten up a couple areas of slippage that, while haven’t factored heavily in terms of wins and losses, has made finding success tougher than needed.

In their 114-103 win over Philadelphia on Jan. 11 at The O2 Arena in London, Boston trailed by as many as 22 points before rallying in the second half in which they led by as many as 19 points.

Horford had 13 points and eight rebounds in the win over the Sixers, while Tatum had 16 points – 11 coming in the third quarter.

Both played key roles in last week’s win, and their value remains high heading into Tuesday’s game against the Pelicans.

The timing of Tatum and Horford’s injuries not being serious comes when the Celtics are just starting to become whole.

Terry Rozier is playing some of his best basketball of the season lately. Daniel Theis and Aron Baynes are steady contributors defensively as well as on the boards.

And Marcus Morris, who has spent most of this season either injured or playing with a minutes restriction, played with no limitations last week in London and delivered one of his best games of the season.

Morris came off the bench to score 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting to go with eight rebounds in helping Boston come away with the win.

“It really is about the five on the court,” Baynes told NBC Sports Boston. “No matter who they are, we all know we got a job to do and we do it well, really well, together.”

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Marcus Smart remains cautiously optimistic on return to the Boston Celtics

Marcus Smart remains cautiously optimistic on return to the Boston Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. — Marcus Smart, less than two weeks away from becoming a restricted free agent, remains cautiously optimistic that he will be back with the Celtics this season.

“I do,” he said at his basketball camp held on the campus of Brandeis University. “I haven’t put too much thought into this off-season, the free agency thing.

He added, “my number one focus is on my family now. I have a lot of stuff going.”

Specifically, Smart’s mother Camellia Smart is battling cancer.

Smart, who has spent a good chunk of the offseason with her in Texas, said her health has been his number one priority this summer.

“Right now, she needs all the positive thinking we can give her,” said Smart who added that she has three kidney stones and has lost the ability to walk due to chemotherapy treatments. 

While basketball is certainly an afterthought for Smart at this time, both he and the Celtics will have to make some tough decisions soon. As a restricted free agent, the Celtics can match any offer he receives. 

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A number of teams, including the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns are doing their homework on Smart to determine 1) If they want to make an offer to him and 2) what’s a number they can put out there that would dissuade the Celtics from matching.”

Smart, selected by the Celtics with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, has been a mainstay in the Celtics rotation from the moment he joined the team.

Despite often being criticized for his poor shooting, Smart averaged 9.4 points per game throughout his career as a Celtic, appearing in 251 regular season games.

His impact most nights lies at the defensive end of the floor where he has emerged as one of the better on-the-ball defenders in the NBA.

And while most think of good perimeter defense as contesting shots, Smart has shown you can be a difference-maker defensively by being in the right position at the right time as well.

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After rallying back from a 26-point deficit to beat Houston earlier this season, Smart drew a pair of offensive fouls on inbounds plays against James Harden in the closing moments to help secure the win.

And there have been countless dives on the floor for loose balls, deflections, rebounds and of course forcing turnovers, that have made Smart a player that has tremendous value in the eyes of the Celtics.

But in terms of dollars and cents, how much is Smart really worth to the Boston?

There are several teams in the NBA  such as the New York Knicks and Detroit Piston s, that are making calls inquiring about Smart to determine if they will make an offer to the restricted free agent-to-be next month.

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