Marcus Smart: Could return from thumb surgery by potential Game 7

Celtics guard Marcus Smart engaged in shooting drills Sunday for the first time since undergoing thumb surgery last month and said he could return to action as early as the end of the first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Smart, wearing a new splint on his shooting hand, got up shots before Game 1 between the Celtics and Bucks, then expressed optimism about getting back on the court to help his injury-ravaged team should it hang around in the playoffs.

“Today was the first day with the new splint on to actually get out here and do something. So the thumb felt well,” said Smart, who underwent surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament on March 16.

“We’re on track for [a return in the] next three weeks, possibly Game 7 of the first round, [but] definitely second round. So we’re on the right path.”

Smart confidently shot from different spots on the court before Sunday’s game.

“I have a new splint on, a smaller splint to protect the thumb from going back to the side or possible reinjury,” Smart said. “So I’ll be playing like that when I come back for a while, for probably the next couple of months. But this was my first time, and it felt good out there.”

Brown said the Sixers’ dominant Game 1 win Saturday did not factor in the team’s decision to sit Embiid for Game 2.

“It’s about what’s best for Joel’s health,” Brown said.

After Game 2 on Monday, the Sixers plan to practice in Philadelphia on Tuesday and travel to Miami on Wednesday. Game 3 is Thursday night in Miami.

Between Game 2 and Game 3, Embiid may participate in on-court work with members of the coaching staff or players who are not in the regular rotation.

“That’s part of Joel’s return-to-play plan,” Brown said.

But the coach added that it would be difficult to put together a full scrimmage for Embiid, whose conditioning may be a factor upon his return.

“To re-create that in real ways isn’t going to happen,” Brown said.
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