By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — As the end of the regular season gets closer, most NBA teams are dealing with a handful of bumps and bruises.
That’s just the product of a rigorous schedule, and really isn’t too uncommon in the Association. This is usually the time when teams take any chance they can to get their star players a little added rest with the playoff just around the corner.
And then there’s the Boston Celtics, who at the moment, look more like a MASH unit than a basketball team. Here’s a quick look at Boston’s current injury report:
Kyrie Irving, Left Knee Soreness (day-to-day, will likely miss some time to rest)
Jaylen Brown, Concussion (out indefinitely, likely out the next week)
Marcus Smart, Sprained Right Thumb (out indefinitely, timetable TBD)
Al Horford, Illness (day-to-day)
Daniel Theis, Torn Meniscus (out for season)
Shane Larkin, Right Knee Soreness (minutes restriction)
Omitted from that list is Gordon Hayward, who despite working hard to return from that horrible ankle injury way back in Game 1, likely won’t be hitting the floor for the Celtics this season. Add him to the mix, and that’s three All-Star caliber players on the shelf, and four of Boston’s five projected starters from before the season. Without Smart, the Celtics are missing four of their top six rotation players.
So who the heck is still healthy for the Celtics? Here’s a look at those who aren’t spending their time with the team doctors:
Jayson Tatum (rookie)
Semi Ojeleye (rookie)
Abdel Nader (rookie)
Guerschon Yabusele (rookie)
Jabari Bird (rookie)
Kadeem Allen (rookie)
That’s six rookies who could be playing meaningful minutes for the Celtics over the next few weeks (or should we call them the Boston Red Claws?). First-year sensation Jayson Tatum and Aron Baynes are the only healthy starters at the moment, though if the C’s are lucky, Horford may be able to return Wednesday night when they host the Washington Wizards.
If things get any worse, Danny Ainge may have to hold some open tryouts at a local Y.
The Celtics should give Irving as much time as he needs to rest his achy knee, because without a mostly healthy Irving, they aren’t going anywhere this postseason. Resting their All-Star guard will also mean a lot more playing time for Terry Rozier, which isn’t a bad thing for Boston. Rozier has been living up to his “Scary Terry” nickname this season, averaging a career-high 10.6 points as a giant spark off the bench. He’s been on an absolute tear lately, shooting 44 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three-point land while averaging 15.4 points over the last 16 games. It’s the best stretch of the guard’s career, and he’s provided plenty of winning plays for the C’s in that span.
If there’s anything going for the Celtics right now, it’s the current standings in the Eastern Conference. They’re 3.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors, who have won eight straight and 17 of their last 19. Even with a pair of head-to-head matchups in the final two weeks of the regular season, chances are the Celtics won’t be catching their prehistoric rivals. On the flip side, the Celtics own a comfortable seven-game lead over the Indiana Pacers for the No. 2 seed in the East, and it would take a massive collapse to relinquish that cushion. It should allow Brad Stevens to get his walking wounded enough rest to heal up for the playoffs, which are just over a month away.
The Celtics will certainly look a lot different over the next few weeks, but the goal down the stretch should be to get as healthy as possible for the postseason.