Danny Ainge: Marcus Smart likely still a 'few weeks' from returning

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday that guard Marcus Smart is still likely a "few weeks" away from returning to game action.

During his weekly call to Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub, Ainge hesitated to offer a timeline for Smart's return, but told the "Toucher and Rich" program that Smart needs more time to rehab from a subluxation of the proxmial tibfib joint.

"I've spent a lot of time with Marcus over the last couple of days and he's been working out and doing his therapy," Ainge said. "I don't know a timetable, you never know, Marcus will be the only one that will know when his leg will be completely healed. But the good news is there's no surgery needed; it's more like a bad sprain and he just needs time to get it healthy. It'd still probably be another few weeks, I'd guess."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens originally suggested a "two week plus" timeline for the injury that occurred Nov. 20 when Smart banged knees with Brooklyn's Thomas Robinson. It now sounds like Smart might not be back until closer to the new calendar year (which is more in line with the 4-6 week recovery that Dr. Mark Adickes suggested was more likely with that injury).

Despite Smart's injury history during his brief NBA career, Ainge stressed that he's confident Smart will be back as soon as he's able.

"Oh my gosh, I'm not sure there's more of a competitor than Marcus," Ainge said. "He wants to play and he loves to play. He provides a great spark and that's why his teammates love him so much because he plays at a different level. And that may also be why he's been hurt a few times already. He plays at a different level than most players play."

The Celtics are 3-3 in the six games that Smart has missed to this point.