WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart said doctors told him to play the lottery after he avoided what could have been a season-ending injury when he punched a glass picture frame out of frustration last month in Los Angeles.
Smart, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing Boston's final 11 games before the All-Star break due to right hand lacerations, detailed how doctors pulled a large shard of glass from his palm that narrowly avoided shredding two tendons near the pinky on his shooting hand.
"[Doctors] said the two tendons that ran along the pinky area, the main tendons, and literally the glass was sitting right in between them. So, [the doctors said],'You should go play the lotto or something because you missed your tendons,'" Smart said. "They don't understand it. They don't really see how. So I thank God for that every day. It could have been worse."
What would have happened if glass had cut the tendons?
"I probably would have had to have surgery," said Smart. "I would have been done for the year."
Instead, Smart spent the past month simply waiting for cuts on the back of his hand to heal. He wore merely a small bandage Wednesday during his return to full-team activities and deemed himself ready to play when Boston opens the second half of the season on Friday in Detroit.
The Celtics went 6-5 without Smart and fell to second place in the Eastern Conference. Boston still leads the league in defensive rating (100.9), but that rating ballooned to 105.2 while Smart was out. Smart said he felt like he let his teammates down by not being available over the past month.
"I was devastated, just from the fact that I couldn't even get out there and do anything to help," said Smart. "I'm a competitor, and I think anybody in this league if you ask them they'll tell you: It's one thing to sit on the bench because of something that happened that you couldn't control, but it's another to sit on there for something you can control. I feel like I let my team down. But I got a second chance to come out and redeem myself."
All-Star big man Al Horford, who supported Smart even after the guard let his emotions get the best of him, saw an energized Smart at Boston's first practice after the All-Star break.
"I think he was excited to be back," Horford said. "There's no question that having Marcus back makes our defense a lot better. As a group, what I said before and I'll say it again, our focus and commitment to defending -- that's what we need to do. It has to start on our first game on Friday."
All-Star guard Kyrie Irving shared his sentiments.
"[Smart] just adds a very unique understanding to the game on both ends of the floor," Irving said. "He'll be able to break down the defense and create opportunities for not just himself, but the rest of us. We all know how great he is defensively. What he adds to our team is great. It's unmatched."
Celtics players and coaches have routinely referenced how Smart impacts winning, and they hope he can bring that flare for big plays in key moments when he returns to the court.
"Hopefully, it's a good lift. He's been a key part of our team for four years now," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "Not only does he add what he adds, but he knows what's going on to the nth degree because he's been around here for so long. Obviously, having him out at practice was good today. That always raises the energy level when you have someone new at practice.
"I'm sure he'd second this -- [punching glass] wasn't a good move. You don't want to put yourself in that risk, but luckily nothing beyond what happened happened. His hand is a lot better, and that's obviously encouraging. You don't want anyone to pay any more than he did with regard to time missed, time away; he does want to play, he's a guy who really likes to play, he's a good teammate. I know how antsy he is, so that would have been even harder."
Smart, who explained he had no pain or setbacks during full-contact activities Wednesday, said he ran a gamut of emotions during his absence but that he is motivated to stay on the court and help his team pull itself from its pre-All-Star-break funk.
"One day I was sad. One day I was mad. Frustrated, irritated, annoyed, all those words," Smart said of how he was feeling while sidelined. "The lesson I probably have to say is that you can't take things for granted.
"Us as a team, we've taken things for granted, as well. We started off hot this season, and teams came after us. And we kind of hit that slope and started plateauing. And that's one thing you can't do in this league. So the second half's going to be huge for us."