Ainge: No surgery for Marcus Smart, still several weeks from returning

There's nobody the Celtics could have afforded to lose less this year than Marcus Smart. Unfortunately that is something they have had to deal with early on, as the second-year guard went down with a "a subluxation of the proximal tibfib joint" in a blowout win over Brooklyn.

The injury occurred on November 20 and a mysteriousness has surrounded it ever since, with little clarity on his return besides a two-four week prognosis and the team calling it a "unique" diagnosis.

That was until this morning, on 98.5 The Sport Hub's Toucher and Rich morning show, where Danny Ainge's regular appearance shed some light on the outlook for Smart:

“He’s in working out doing his therapy. I don’t know a timetable. He is the only one to know when his leg is completely healed, but the good news is there’s no surgery’s like a bad sprain and he just needs time go.

Ainge added that it will likely be "another few weeks" before Smart returns and wants to make sure everything is fully healed.

No matter how you slice it, Smart's absence does the team no good. Not only does it prevent his continued growth into a potential centerpiece player, it only continues to add to the building reputation that he is injury-prone.

Since being drafted by the C's, Smart has only appeared in 76 of the team's 164 games with injuries ranging from an ankle ailment to an achilles sprain to a sprained big toe earlier this year. That doesn't even take into account the dislocated fingers that took a bite out of his 2015 offseason.

Nevertheless, Ainge is insistent that Smart's fire and determination to play will continue to drive him:

“I’m not sure there is more of a competitor than Marcus. He wants to play and he loves to play, and that’s why his teammates love him so much. He plays at such a different level, and maybe that’s why he’s been hurt a few times already."

Without Smart, Boston has digressed into a stretch of substantial mediocrity. They're 3-3 in six game, winning by a combined total of 47 and losing by 53. The Celtics are a +53 in games when Smart plays and just +28 when he doesn't.

Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports

In simple terms, Smart represents the team's identity. They need him back as soon as possible and judging by Ainge's comments earlier, the painful wait will continue for quite some time.

Over the next two weeks, starting tonight in Mexico, the Celtics are slated to play Sacramento, San Antonio, New Orleans, Chicago, 20-0 Golden State, Charlotte, Cleveland, and Detroit.

Hopefully by these indications Smart could return to play against Atlanta on December 18, but there is no definitive timetable.

All I know is that it is a shame we won't be able to see Smart do battle with early MVP favorite Steph Curry, who could be leading an unprecedented 23-0 Warriors team into the TD Garden on December 11.

Follow Bobby Manning on Twitter @RealBobManning

Photo Credit: AP Images/Sue Ogrocki