<
>

C's ease Smart back into game action

BOSTON -- Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart played for the first time in 10 games Wednesday because of an ankle injury, but coach Brad Stevens said afterward that Smart is not yet ready to return to a full-time role with the team.

Smart, the sixth overall pick in June's draft, showed obvious rust in his single stint on the floor during the Celtics' 109-102 overtime win over the Detroit Pistons. He took the court early in the second quarter, playing 4:38, and missed three attempts from beyond the arc while contributing two assists.

"I didn't think he looked ready," Stevens said. "Had nothing to do physically; he hasn't practiced. It's kind of tough to just throw him in there. I hadn't even seen him until we got to the gym today."

Smart said he felt he could have done more. Having given Stevens the thumbs up that he could play prior to tipoff, Smart noted he wasn't yet 100 percent but felt good enough to at least contribute. However, Stevens saw otherwise, opting to go with second-year guard Phil Pressey and veteran Gerald Wallace after Smart's brief return.

"He didn't say anything to me; he just took me out," Smart said. "What he says goes. If he feels like I wasn't ready and that's what he feels, then that's what it is. I thought I was ready."

Smart admitted that he felt he was lagging while he was on the court and said that by the time he finally felt comfortable, he was done for the day. Despite not being called upon a second time, Smart seemed to understand his coach's approach.

"We're taking things slow. That's just kind of how it goes," he said.

"[It] felt good to be out there. Last game I played was [Nov. 7] so it's always a good feeling to get back out there with this group of guys and get a feel for the game again."

Team captain and fellow guard Rajon Rondo noted the difficulty Smart faced in his first game back.

"Definitely tough to get into a rhythm, no practice time and no game time in about four weeks," Rondo said. "He got his feet wet today, and I asked him how he was feeling, and he said, 'Very good.' We'll take baby steps at this time. He's young and he'll be fine."

With a game against the Los Angeles Lakers next on the schedule for the Celtics, Smart is hoping he'll be able to figure more into the team's game plan for the matchup. Noting the history between the teams, he spoke with excitement about getting his first taste of the rivalry.

However, it will be up to Stevens to decide just how ready Smart is to contribute.

"I definitely feel like I'll be ready Friday to give a little bit more, but it really comes down to how Coach feels," Smart said.

In five appearances before the injury, Smart averaged 6.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals over 20.4 minutes per game.

Boston went 2-8 without Smart.