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.
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“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.
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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.
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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.”