Marcus Smart & Gordon Hayward back for playoffs? - don't dismiss it!

Don't dismiss this possibility too quickly. I will start with Marcus Smart's present status. He had ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) surgery yesterday and was given a 6-8 week recovery period. Chris Paul, currently of the Houston Rockets, had similar surgery early in 2017 and was back in action exactly five weeks and two days later.

On February 24, 2017, exactly 37 days after surgery, Chris took the floor against the San Antonio Spurs. He played 32 minutes, compiling 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals. He shot 6/14 from the field, 2/3 on threes and 3/4 from the foul line. Granted, Paul is right-handed, and the injury was to his left hand while Smart's injury is to his dominant right hand, but that doesn't kill my argument. This is an encapsulation of the surgery written in 2012, and we can assume the procedure may be more refined today (via

The surgical procedure is simple and is a direct repair of the ligament to its normal attachment site using bone anchors (screws with suture attached). The screws are countersunk into the bone the sutures are passed into the end of the ligament and tied. This pulls the ligament back to its normal attachment site. The thumb is immobilized for 4-6 weeks, followed by an additional 2 weeks of protected range of motion, so that 8 weeks following the surgical repair the athlete is ready to return to play.

Marcus will not use this following weeks as down-time. He knows of no such thing. Maintaining cardiovascular fitness is easy. He should not lose any of his leanness. Lower-body strength? No problem. Upper-body strength? There will be some limitations with the right hand in a cast/brace, but the Celtics staff will have no problem improvising solutions. A Chris-Paul-like 37-day recovery puts Marcus back in action on April 22, 2018. The NBA playoffs begin April 14, and the Conference Semi's start April 28-30. Conference Finals start around May 15, two months from now.

I find it interesting that regardless of a mysterious set-back in Gordon Hayward's rehab, suggested by the ever-close-to-the-vest Danny Ainge, Gordon still looks terrific. Definitely not yet ready for contact drills, but given two more months of recovery I can envision a return for the Eastern Conference Finals, if the Celtics make it to that point.

The timing is up to the two players, Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens and the medical staff. With 13 games remaining in the Celtics' schedule, they have a fairly strong hold on second place in the East. If the playoffs started today, they would take on the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. Ainge may feel that the current active players can be successful in that match-up and move on to the Conference semi-finals. At that point it may be time to bring Smart back into the fold in an attempt to get to the Eastern Finals. That would mean two more months of recovery for Hayward and the possibility of a return. This has been one hell of an up-and-down season. Don't rule anything out!

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Matt Eest/Boston Herald