Celtics

Marcus Smart cleared to return to Celtics in Game 4

Marcus Smart cleared to return to Celtics in Game 4

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics will be as complete as we’ve seen them in the playoffs with the return of Marcus Smart to the lineup. 

Smart, out since April 7 with a torn oblique injury suffered against Orlando, will be available to play tonight in a pivotal Game 4 matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“He will be available to play short stints,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens of Smart. 

This will be the second straight year that Smart has returned from an injury in the playoffs with the Bucks awaiting him. 

Smart was cleared for contact on Saturday and went through some 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 drills which included him taking a charge and suffering a blow to that oblique region. 

After the hit, Smart said he felt fine. 

Boston forward Semi Ojeleye was among those to watch Smart during his return to contact on Saturday, and liked what he saw. 

“He looked great,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston on Sunday. “He looks like he's ready to go.”

In addition to his defense, Ojeleye said Smart brings more than just his talent to the floor.

“He brings so much emotion to the game, something we've been missing,“ Ojeleye said.

Smart’s return comes four weeks and a day removed from the injury which was initially supposed to keep him out 4-6 weeks with head coach Brad Stevens anticipating his return would be closer to the six-week window. 

Fortunately for the Celtics, Smart’s recovery was quicker than expected. 

The 6-foot-4 Smart has been a defensive fixture for the Celtics, one of the league’s top defensive teams. 

And while Boston showed no signs of defensive slippage in their first-round series against Indiana Pacers which ended in just four games, Smart’s absence has become noticeable in Boston’s struggles against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks who hold a 2-1 series lead going into tonight’s game. 

Smart appeared in a career-high 80 games this season, averaging 8.9 points while shooting career-bests from the field (42.2 percent) and from 3-point range (36.4) while still playing at an all-NBA level defensively.

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Nicolas Batum on Celtics center Vincent Poirier: "It's a good pick-up for Boston for sure"

Nicolas Batum on Celtics center Vincent Poirier: "It's a good pick-up for Boston for sure"

Team USA didn't finish the FIBA World Cup as expected, but there were plenty of positives to take away from the tournament if you're a Celtics fan. 

Not only did Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart contribute to Team USA and certainly took some lessons from playing under Gregg Popovich, but Daniel Theis (Germany) and newly signed Vincent Poirier (France) got invaluable experience they can carry into the 2019-20 NBA season. 

Poirier signed with the Celtics during free agency on a two-year contract and should have plenty of opportunities to earn playing time in a Celtics' frontcourt that hopes to replace Al Horford and Aron Baynes. 

Poirier's French teammate Nicolas Batum, who played with Walker in Charlotte over the last four years, dealt out some praise of the rookie center after France beat Australia for the FIBA bronze medal. 

"This guy, I think, just started basketball 5 years ago, so he's had a special career," Batum told John Schumann. "His energy was great. We can't count on Rudy (Gobert) every game... He was huge. He wasn't scared by Bogut & Baynes... He was amazing tonight."

France knocked the U.S. out of the knockout round by besting them in the quarterfinals. Poirier didn't play in that game, but has played a big role for France behind All-Star big man Rudy Gobert. 

"It's clear that he's a center that can block shots and control the paint," Batum said. "He's a terrific roller, can really catch a lob, and obviously has a lot of energy. It's a good pick-up for Boston, for sure."

The Celtics responded to Horford's departure and trading Baynes to Phoneix by signing Poirier and Enes Kanter to join Theis and Robert Williams at the center spot. Boston will probably have to solve their hole at that position by committee, but if Poirier can play consistent defense, rebound and protect the paint as Batum describes, he could earn himself backup minutes behind Kanter. 

Either way, it should be an interesting training camp to say the least for this new-look Celtics team. 

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One lesson each Celtics player can take away from World Cup

celtics-fiba.jpg
File photos

One lesson each Celtics player can take away from World Cup

Team Shamrock’s FIBA adventures ended with a whimper Saturday as — under the cloak of East Coast darkness — three of the four Celtics on Team USA logged DNPs (eight points for Jaylen Brown) while the Americans claimed seventh place with an 87-74 win over Poland. Combine that with the fact that Daniel Theis got limited reps with Germany’s early exit and Daniel Poirier hasn’t played big minutes while backing up Rudy Gobert for France and the World Cup experience wasn’t quite as robust as it could have been for the six Celtics players involved.

Still, there were positives to pluck and experiences gained by everyone involved, not the least of which is that a third of Boston’s roster will show up to camp on Oct. 1 in game-ready shape. Still, regardless of Team USA’s medal-less finish and the limited reps for Theis and Poirier, there’s at least one item or lesson that every player can bring with them into the new season.