Stevens Gives Scoop on Lengthy Injury Report

Celtics coach Brad Stevens uttered an ominous “oh man” when asked for an injury update Wednesday afternoon. And for good reason, as Boston’s top six rotation players were all included in his report.

So let’s break down who’s in, who’s out, and whose status is up in the air for Thursday night’s matchup against the scorching Phoenix Suns.

We’ll start off with some (mostly) good news pertaining to Boston’s point guard duo of Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker.

After both missing Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls with non-COVID illnesses, they appear to be trending in the right direction, though Smart more so than Walker. Smart was back at practice Wednesday afternoon and will be good to go Thursday night. Walker, on the other hand, was still feeling under the weather Wednesday and did not participate in practice, but Stevens says that he is “hopeful that [Walker] will be able to go tomorrow.”

That’s a good sign for the Celtics, who struggled without their top two ball handlers during Monday’s loss to Chicago. However, the status of their top two scorers is now in question for Thursday night.

Jaylen Brown is doubtful to play after injuring his left shoulder Monday night, which was later diagnosed as shoulder bursitis. Stevens didn’t go into detail on the severity of the injury, but the fact that Brown is not listed as a definite out is a promising sign.

Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum is listed as “questionable” with a left ankle impingement. Although he seemed unfazed by the diagnosis, noting Wednesday afternoon that his “ankle is feeling pretty good. I don’t see why I wouldn’t play tomorrow.”

Rob Williams, who missed the last three games with left knee soreness, tried to ramp up his activity Wednesday, but the Celtics will hold him out for at least one more game. Evan Fournier will miss his ninth straight game as he remains in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols. However, he has been cleared to be around the team after recovering from COVID-19 and was in the building Wednesday getting some advice from another coronavirus recoveree in Tatum.

“I’ve talked to him quite a bit about it,” Tatum said. “He’s asked me things, and I told him how I felt, and things to look out for when you get back. I think the toughest period is when you first get back, obviously, because you’ve been sitting down for a while and because of the virus. Hopefully he’ll be alright - I’m sure he will. But he knows I’m here for anything while he’s dealing with it.”

The timing of all of these injuries is difficult for the Celtics, considering how they are trying to establish some late-season continuity after being plagued by health issues throughout the season.

“We haven't really had the chance to do that,” Stevens said. “We've had a little bit of that, when we were out west, but still that's without Fornier, obviously missing Rob in the last game as well, so we just haven't had that opportunity. I know we're not unique in that, I know there's other teams that are dealing with that as well. We're hopeful at some point, here in the next 14 games, we can have everybody on the roster available.”

With that being said, the C's are fortunate in that none of their current health issues appear to be long-lasting. Smart will be back Thursday, and Walker could as well. Tatum doesn’t seem concerned about his ankle injury, and his wingmate Brown is only listed as “doubtful” for the Suns game. And both Fournier and Williams appear to be making progress in returning from their absences, so we could see them back in the lineup any day.

Despite all of the injuries, Boston has still managed to put together its best stretch of the season, winning eight out of its 10 games in April, including six of its last seven.

“I think we’re just being connected for longer periods of time during a game,” Tatum said of the reason behind their recent success. “Individually guys have been playing better in the last month or so. I think it’s the right time if we continue to carry this on through the regular season and into the playoffs.”

Of course, maintaining such momentum would be easier with a full roster, which the Celtics hope to have soon. And while the injury report is certainly deserving of an “oh man” at the moment, it appears as though the Celtics are finally closing in on a chance to be healthy and complete.

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