Stevens hopes Smart will be ready by end of summer

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Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said guard Marcus Smart is recovering well from a hand injury sustained at summer league. He hopes the second-year guard can resume basketball activities before the end of the summer.

Smart dislocated two fingers on his right hand while diving to the floor chasing a rebound at Vegas summer league. Last year's No. 6 pick admitted he initially feared a more serious injury, but X-rays confirmed no fractures.

"Luckily, the X-rays were negative as far as any fractures," Stevens said of Smart during an interview with SiriusXM's NBA Radio on Thursday evening. "He’s sore. I was texting with him today, but he’s receiving treatment as we speak and he’ll take care of himself.

"Hopefully he’ll be back on the court by mid-August or just before September. Obviously, you never want to have an injury, never want to have an injury of any magnitude. But to be out a couple of weeks this time of year won’t be the end of the world for him."

Smart's injury will force him to skip a scheduled trip to Africa with Stevens for a Basketball Without Borders camp. But Boston's head coach remains enthused about the experience.

"I’m looking forward to it, there’s no question about it," said Stevens. "Basketball is such an international game and it’s played at such a high level all over the world. To get a chance to travel and to get a chance to really -- the places basketball has taken me, it’s incredible. I’ve coached in China with USA basketball, I’ve taken a few college teams to Western Europe, I get a chance now to go to Africa. The Celtics are going to Madrid and Milan for our preseason -- it’s just amazing where this game takes you.

"I’m a beneficiary of that and I’m looking forward to going over there and I’ll probably learn a lot more from the people I’m with and the people I’ll get a chance to get to coach than they will from me. But I’m really looking forward to it. It’s certainly something that we’ve targeted and circled for a long time."

Some other noteworthy tidbits from Stevens' radio appearance:

Sullinger Update: Asked about Jared Sullinger's progress in trying to both slim down and improve his game shape this summer, Stevens said all reports he's received have been encouraging, though Sullinger has been working out away from Boston's facilities.

"He’s actually not in Boston right now and hasn’t been most of the summer," said Stevens. "He’s been working out in a couple different locations. But everything that I have heard, every time I’ve spoken with him, every time I have spoken to people around him, it sounds like he’s doing great.

"Hey, he wants to be in the best shape of his life, he wants to be in great condition, and he’s working towards that, and I think he’s excited for a new season to show that’s been his focus and to show off the work that he’s put in to get there."

Stevens expressed excitement in getting to work with Sullinger again.

"He’s had a lot of good moments in my first two seasons here and he’s certainly a big important part of our team," said Stevens. "He’s in a position where he can score both facing and also back-to-the-basket, but he’s also in position where he can pass the basketball and we play through our bigs quite often and we have a lot of them that are really good passers and really good playmakers. He’s certainly a guy that brings a lot to the table, I’m looking forward to getting to work with him again."

Starting the climb again: Stevens said his team can't expect to simply pick up where it left off at the end of the 2014-15 season and will have to work just as hard to get back to the postseason.

"We’re going to have to get a lot better to be in that position again," said Stevens. "We’re going to have to play better. We're not going to be able to just think that picking right up where we left off is going to be good enough. I think the bottom line is everybody feels a little bit better about their team. Everybody is entering a new season with a great deal of optimism and a great sense of optimism. And everybody has improved; I feel like we have, too. But we’re going to have to be better than we were to end up being into that mix again where we are playing our best basketball at the end of the season with a chance to play in the playoffs and move forward in the playoffs.

"There’s a lot of unpredictability when you’re talking about an 82-game season and injuries and what happens in close games. You have to take advantage of all those things. Do I like our group going into it? I’m looking forward to it, I really am. I like our group. But the bottom line is, we’re going to have to play well. I had an old coach that I used to play against as he was coaching say, ‘You’re good if you play good.’ We’ll find out."

Technically speaking: Informed he went the entire 2014-15 season without a technical foul, Stevens laughed off his ability to stay calm. "I don’t know. I guess there are probably a few officials that wanted to [give him a tech]," said Stevens. "Maybe they are mad that they didn’t. But I think the officiating is really good. I think that, you’ve got players, coaches, and officials who are all human out there. Hey, it’s hard enough to coach my team. It’s hard enough to stay in the moment from a coaching perspective. I lose my cool occasionally, and I’m not perfect in that regard, but I think that I am certainly a better coach when I’m not. I’ve tried to keep that mind."

Not in the cards: Asked, on the heels of his team's visit to Vegas summer league, about a notion that he'd be an ideal poker player due to his temperament, Stevens said that's hardly true. "My card-playing days are probably 15 years in the rearview mirror," he said. "I used to enjoy sitting down and playing cards with my friends, but I was never a guy that enjoyed playing cards in Vegas or anything like that. My buddies used to get together and play some, occasionally, and I was probably not one of the better guys in the group. Probably not fair to give me that title."