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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Injuries mounting for Celtics

By MIKE SHALIN
March 12. 2018 10:17PM
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart reacts after guard Jaylen Brown (not pictured) fell in the third quarter of last week's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)



Sunday wasn’t a very good night for the Boston Celtics.

Monday was worse. A lot worse.

The news trickled in throughout the day, but the final drip in the afternoon left the Celtics without Kyrie Irving, Daniel Theis and Marcus Smart.

First came word that Irving, who didn’t play in the second half of Sunday night’s loss to Indiana, would rest his sore knee and miss some games hoping to get it stronger for the stretch run and playoffs.

Then, rookie Daniel Theis, who has been one of the real surprises for this team after coming over from Germany, would be lost for the season with knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Finally, as if you needed more, word came that Smart, who had the greatest shooting night of his life Sunday, would be lost indefinitely with a torn ligament in his right thumb. Celtics GM Danny Ainge later disputed that report.

Sunday night, they played without Jaylen Brown (concussion) and Al Horford (illness) for the entire game and Irving for the second half.

Oh, and do we even need to mention Gordon Hayward has been gone since the first quarter of the first game and likely won’t play again this season.

“We are equipped and we will battle on I think is the way you’ve gotta look at it,” coach Brad Stevens said Monday. “I’ve never been in a season that’s been like this, and obviously it started right out of the gates this way with Gordon’s (injury).”

This would be a perfect time for Celtics fans to stomp on the apparent grave of the Cavaliers, who have sunk to fourth in the conference after losing two games in L.A. over the weekend. But the Cavs are as battered and bruised as the Celtics and could be getting healthier soon. The Celtics are hitting this crisis at the wrong time.

Column pal Larry Rosoff saw the bright side of all this, that being the Celtics won’t rush Hayward back if they don’t have a good chance of winning it all. I think that’s nonsense. Hayward will play when he’s ready to play. It’s really that simple. That said, I don’t think he’ll play.

As far as Irving, he said: “I think (taking time off) will probably be the best thing, just instead of kind of hoping that it gets better over the two or three days which it usually does. It’s aching a little bit more than I want it to now, so I’m just going to take the necessary time.”

Trailing Toronto by 3½ games with two games left with the Raptors, the Celtics seem to be locked into the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. They’re heading toward a first-round matchup with either Cleveland or Indiana. So the results of the games in the immediate future aren’t really that big a deal — other than having to watch Stevens desperately searching for enough able bodies to put out on the court.

Talking about Theis, who is an athletic scrapper, Stevens said “You really feel for him. I think that he came in knowing he could play, but maybe not even expecting to have the kind of season he had.”

The Celtics host the Wizards Wednesday night.

Stevens’ long-time Zionsville (Indiana) scoring record was finally broken by Isaiah Thompson, only a junior and already committed to Purdue, last week.

“It’s about time. Have you seen me play? Thank goodness,” Stevens said.” My high school ended up winning the first part of the tournament which is called the sectionals in Indiana, which, to me, it was like a huge, huge deal to be able to compete in the Indiana state basketball tournament.”

Streak ends

The Bruins were without Patrice Bergeron (foot), Charlie McAvoy (knee), Brad Marchand (upper body) and David Backes (suspension) when their six-game winning streak ended in Chicago earlier Sunday.

Marchand was out with what being called an upper body injury suffered in his collision with Anthony Duclair Saturday. Duclair is out 1-2 weeks. Marchand was a late scratch and there was speculation the Bruins held him out at the last minute for fear of Blackhawks retaliation for the hit.

Marchand was named Monday as the NHL’s Second Star of the week.

The Sunday game ended with three Zdeno Chara stories, two of them bad.

The captain, soon to turn 41, tied the game for his team by entering the play and scoring. He then took a high sticking double minor that led to the go-ahead Chicago goal. Finally, after coming out of the penalty box after the second minor, he went for a change and left Brent Seabrook alone at the right point for the insurance goal.

The Bruins need McAvoy. They also probably need to get Chara some minutes of rest down the stretch so he’s ready for the playoffs. The Maple Leafs are the likely first-round opponent.

The B’s, who have only four home games left, were on a 10-for-24 power play run (after an 0-for-18) before being shut down on their only try Sunday.

Brady speaks

Monday was a big TV day for Tom Brady and the final edition of his little TV thing was released, showing how disgusting that cut on his right hand really was. So was losing the Super Bowl.

“I think it is a process you have to deal with,” he told Michael Strahan on Good Morning America. “It is so great to be in that game, but to win that game it is very tough. We’ve had a couple of close losses, to the Giants unfortunately, and then the one against the Eagles. I think you realize the sun comes up the next morning and your life goes on, but those games live with you for the rest of your life.

“That is part of being an athlete. That is part of being in a very competitive sport. It’s tough to win that game. I am proud of our efforts throughout the year. We overcame a lot of adversity like you always need to do in order to get to that game, but just came up a little bit short.”

Big names keep getting the ax in the NFL, the Dolphins set to cut Ndamukong Suh. Interested, Pats fans?

Tiger paws

Let me get something out of the way: I don’t like golf. I don’t play golf (unless there’s a windmill or clown’s mouth). I don’t watch golf.

Unless Tiger Woods is playing.

I used to watch Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer when I was a kid — and shut the sport down until Tiger became a thing. Sunday, it was nice to see him become a thing again.

I know the guy has done some bad things away from the course, but I’m drawn to him (when was the last time you didn’t look at a car crash as you passed?). Amid the hoopla of the college basketball stuff, I turned on the end Sunday and was rooting for him, disappointed he finished second but pleased he was back, at least for the one weekend.

Woods, whose personality seems to have softened, tweeted: “Wow, what an amazing week ... people, atmosphere, adrenaline, back nine on Sunday, man I’ve missed this. Getting better. Thank you for all the support!”

Madness?

We will know soon enough if the Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament will be hurt by the long layoff caused by the conference holding its tournament a week early so it could be played at Madison Square Garden. That’s a long time for players to be off.

But while they were all there, the Big Ten Network unveiled a playground basketball court designed in a deal with New York City Parks. The new Triborough Bridge court floor in Queens is beautifully decorated in colors from all Big Ten schools. The thing is stunning.

Baseball stuff

Red Sox players are wearing T-shirts bearing “We Are #LydiaStrong” to support Craig Kimbrel, still in Boston as his baby daughter goes through heart procedures. … The Yankees added Neil Walker to that already potent offense Monday. … Nick Castellanos, moving from third base to right field for the Tigers, is learning under the watchful of a pretty good player — Al Kaline. “I think he’s done a great job … he’s the true leader of our ballclub, no question about that,” Kaline says. … John Sterling’s call of Giancarlo Stanton’s first Yankee homer called it “a Stantonian” homer. Needs work. … Stanton heard boos from a heckler while playing the Marlins last week, the guy yelling “I want (Starlin) Castro back.” … New Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, introducing himself to unfamiliar faces, said, “If I call you Buddy, I don’t really know who you are” and had to rely on the names on their backs. Naturally, some veterans got together and had the name “Buddy” placed on three jerseys. … Bernie Sanders was in Dodgers camp last week, saying, “We’re here to bring the Dodgers back to Brooklyn.” …

Finally, new Nationals manager Dave Martinez actually had his team practice walk-off celebrations the other day. You read that right.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


Sports columns Patriots/NFL Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA Bruins/NHL