Celtics

Horford (concussion) out, Tatum (ankle) expected to play vs. Hornets

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Horford (concussion) out, Tatum (ankle) expected to play vs. Hornets

BOSTON – Jayson Tatum strolled on to the court, with a basketball in hand, and began to dribble behind his back, between his legs and pulled up for a jumper that didn’t touch the rim as he splashed through the net without a ripple.

Looks like you’re planning to play?

“I hope so,” he told NBC Sports Boston, grinning.

Moments later, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens confirmed that barring an unexpected setback during warm-ups, Tatum would be back in the starting lineup tonight against the Charlotte Hornets.

Tatum suffered a sore right ankle injury in the first half of Boston’s 107-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He underwent X-rays that night and had an MRI test performed the following day with both coming back negative.

The news wasn’t as good for Boston’s Al Horford who did not play against the Lakers after entering the league’s concussion protocol following a blow in the second quarter of Boston’s 110-107 win at Atlanta on Monday.

Horford was able to continue playing against the Hawks and wound up just one assist shy of a triple-double by tallying 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

Stevens said Horford would not play tonight, but he’s definitely progressing towards a return to action sooner rather than later.

Initially ruled out for the Hornets game, the Celtics upgraded him to questionable shortly before tip-off before ultimately deciding to sit him out for a second straight game.

This is the second time in as many seasons that Horford missed time due to a concussion. Last season, he was sidelined for nine games. 

“Al is doing way better,” Stevens said. “Progressing really well. Has gone through all the protocol at this point but we’re going to hold him out tonight.”

So the starting lineup tonight will be Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown in the backcourt, with the frontcourt consisting of Tatum, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

New deal in hand, Marcus Smart says, 'Boston loves me, I love Boston'

New deal in hand, Marcus Smart says, 'Boston loves me, I love Boston'

Marcus Smart is right where he wants to be, a member of the Celtics.

But Smart, 24, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal on Thursday, readily admits that there was a time not that long ago when he wasn’t sure about his future in Boston when negotiations didn't go nearly as smooth as he would have liked.

“At one moment, I didn’t really know what to think,” Smart said in a conference call with reporters on Friday. “My main focus has been on my mom and my family.”

His mother Camellia Smart was recently diagnosed with bone marrow cancer.

“When you go through adversity with something like this in your family, it puts things in perspective and everything else becomes kind of a blur to you,” Smart said.

One thing that is clear has been his Smart's impact on the Celtics.

The 6-foot-4 guard has been among the league’s top on-the-ball defenders for years, showcasing a level of defensive versatility that stands out.

Boston allowed just 99.5 points per 100 possessions when Smart was on the floor, which ranked among the league's leaders among guards who played 41 or more games.

And while he is often criticized for his shooting struggles (a career 36-percent shooter from the field, 29.3 percent from 3-point range), Smart still averaged a respectable 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game last season primarily as Boston’s first guard off the bench.

Despite a solid season, the free agent marketplace was not kind one to him.

One of the main reasons for that? Smart was a restricted free agent, which meant the Celtics would have the right to match any offer sheet he signed.

Smart was also hurt by the fact that there were fewer teams with the kind of financial flexibility to put forth an offer sheet that would make the Celtics strongly consider letting him walk.

But even before Smart hit free agency, Danny Ainge and the entire Celtics organization made it absolutely crystal clear that they wanted him back.

And as the free agency period dragged on, the Celtics - at least in their words - never hedged from that position.

In the end, those words were put into action. 

"Keeping Marcus in a Celtics uniform was a top priority, said Ainge, the Celtics' president of basketball operations. "His intensity is unmatched, and the level of toughness that he brings to the team throughout the course of the entire season is second to none."

Smart acknowledged that the process became a bit frustrating at times.

“I didn’t know where I was going to end up at,” Smart said.

And while that uncertainty was difficult to deal with, Smart actually looks back upon the experience and describes it as “a fun thing.”

“As frustrating as it is,” Smart added, “not many people in the world can say that they’re in talks to play for an NBA team, to make a dream become a reality. Being able to do things they never imagined they would be able to do. This whole time, even with everything going on, me not knowing where I could end up, it was still fun, exciting for me.”

And those fun, exciting times will continue for the longest-tenured member of the Celtics.

“Boston loves me, I love Boston. Boston wants me to be here, I want to be here,” Smart said. “I am here so, we made it work.”

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Marcus Smart is back, but is he worth the money?

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Marcus Smart is back, but is he worth the money?

1:32 - Marcus Smart is back! Michael Holley, Tom Giles and Danielle Trotta discuss the 4-year, $52 million deal the guard signed with the Celtics on Thursday and debate whether or not he’s worth the money.

7:36 - According to Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal, the issues between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady haven’t been resolved, but then we have Danny Amendola on Barstool’s “Comeback Szn Podcast” disputing this. Phil Perry, Tom Giles and Michael Holley try to make some sense of it all.

12:49 - After J.D. Martinez said that this Red Sox team is like a family, it has Tom Giles and Danielle Trotta wondering if the club has an identity and what that might be.

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE