Report: Marcus Smart (thumb) out for regular season, hopes to return for playoffs

The Boston Celtics Marcus Smart’s season hung in the balance of a New York hand specialist. “I think there’s a chance he plays and a chance he’s done,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub on Thursday. “We’re all waiting to figure out what that’s gonna be.”

The diagnosis dropped Friday on Smart’s injured right thumb — suffered diving for a loose ball late in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers — and it landed somewhere in the middle:

The surgery to repair a torn tendon in Smart’s right thumb, which will reportedly cost him at least the final 15 games of Boston’s regular season, comes on the heels of season-ending torn left meniscus surgery for reserve center Daniel Theis. Coupled with Kyrie Irving’s chronic left knee soreness, Jaylen Brown’s concussion and Al Horford’s illness, the second-place Celtics are limping into the playoffs.

This, of course, after losing All-Star forward Gordon Hayward to a horrific leg injury five minutes into the season. Where once there was hope Hayward could return in the playoffs — a long-shot that got longer with Ainge’s announcement that he had suffered a slight setback in his rehab — the Celtics are now just hoping they can patch together a rotation to save another surprising 50-win campaign.

24 PHOTOS
Marcus Smart through his NBA career
See Gallery
Marcus Smart through his NBA career
NEW YORK - JUNE 26: Marcus Smart addresses the media after being selected 6th overall by the Boston Celtics during the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26, 2014 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Jeyhoun Allebaugh/NBAE via Getty Images)
TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 3: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics poses for a portrait during the 2014 NBA rookie photo shoot on August 3, 2014 at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau /NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 22: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics shoots a free throw against the Brooklyn Nets during a preseason game at TD Garden on October 22, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 05: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics reacts after a three point basket late in the second half against the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden on November 5, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 20: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics stands on the court during a game against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena on February 20, 2015 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 11: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics is awarded the KIA Performance Award before the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on March 11, 2015 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
MILAN - OCTOBER 6: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics follows the play against Emporio Armani Milano as part of the 2015 Global Games on October 6, 2015 at the Mediolanum Forum, Arena Sala Premium in Milan, Italy. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 13: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after scoring against the Indiana Pacers during the fourth quarter at TD Garden on January 13, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeat the Pacers 103-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 1: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics participates in a Read to Achieve event with students on December 9, 2015 at the Franklin D. Roosevelt School in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 12: Marcus Smart #36 of the U.S. Team shoots the ball during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge as part of the 2016 NBA All Star Weekend on February 12, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 29: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics and Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz battle for a loose ball during the third quarter at TD Garden on February 29, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 19: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics looks on from the bench against the Atlanta Hawks in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 19, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
BOSTON - NOVEMBER 2: Boston Celtics Amir Johnson (90, left) is greeted by teammates Marcus Smart and James Young after he hit a third quarter three pointer. The Boston Celtics hosted the Chicago Bulls in a regular season basketball game at TD Garden in Boston on Nov. 2, 2016. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 23: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after hitting a three point shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second quarter at TD Garden on December 23, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON - MARCH 15: Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) drives for an easy layup off an assist by Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12), not pictured, to bring the Celtics within 4 (36-40) of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second quarter. The Boston Celtics host the Minnesota Timberwolves at TD Garden in Boston on Mar. 15, 2017. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 18: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the second quarter of Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at TD Garden on April 18, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 26: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the third quarter of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden on April 26, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 17: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics reacts in the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers during Game One of the 2017 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 17, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
WALTHAM, MA - MAY 18: Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart is pictured as he ponders a question from a reporter in Waltham, MA on May 18, 2017. The Boston Celtics had a practice session in preparation for Game Two of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals playoff series. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 18: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics addresses fans before the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden on October 18, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 25: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics looks on in the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on November 25, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Celtics won 108-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 5: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 5, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 18: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 18, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 28: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics looks on during a game against the Charlotte Hornets at TD Garden on February 28, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Smart’s absence is a devastating blow to their chances of making the Eastern Conference finals, much less the NBA Finals. While his traditional statistics — 10.2 points (on abysmal 36.7 percent shooting), 4.7 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 29.9 minutes per game off the bench — aren’t overwhelming, his manic play, especially on defense, breathed life into a briefly thriving second unit that is now in shambles.

With Smart on the floor, the Celtics allowed 99.4 points per 100 possessions this season — two points better than their league-leading defensive rating — and that number rises by more than four points with him on the bench. He can defend four positions and was a nightmare for opposing guards.

The Celtics limped through a recent stretch of 11 games without Smart — after he nearly severed a tendon in the same hand by punching a picture frame — and were just starting to regain the form that led to 16 straight victories early in the season before half their rotation went down with ailments.

Horford will to return from illness Friday night in Orlando, Irving is expected back as soon as Sunday, and Brown could clear concussion protocol early next week. But it was their depth that was beginning to make them so dangerous, with Smart and Terry Rozier wreaking havoc alongside Marcus Morris and Theis on the second unit, and they will now rely more heavily on Shane Larkin and Greg Monroe.

“Those guys have played big roles,” Ainge told the Sports Hub on Thursday. “Theis has had a fantastic year, as has Marcus Smart. He’s a big, big piece of our team. So, the next guy up has to step up.”

The Celtics will tighten the rotation in the playoffs. That means more minutes for Rozier and Morris off the bench and more minutes for Irving as a starter. “I think we just have to find a way,” added Ainge.

Boston no longer has a chance of catching the Toronto Raptors for the No. 1 seed, and their firmly entrenched at No. 2 — seven losses better than the third-place Pacers. They can afford to rest the walking wounded in the regular season, but Smart’s absence is a game-changer for the playoffs. Without him, they’re vulnerable against any of the eight playoff teams in the Eastern Conference.

More from Yahoo Sports:
After upset of Arizona, Obama gets called out
ESPN announcer: ‘Monday Night Football’ wasn’t ‘fun’
Texas Tech’s ferocious 360 alley-oop dunk was just silly
Sherman take shots at Seahawks, Carroll

– – – – – – –

Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Read Full Story