Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart is gearing up for his first NBA Finals appearance, and he's lucky to still be playing.
The Defensive Player of the Year told reporters on Wednesday ahead of Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors that the ankle injury he suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat was "pretty serious" and that he's "thankful" to still be playing.
"The ankle was a pretty serious injury," Smart said. "I’m thankful to be able to play, let alone still walk."
Celtics head coach Ime Udoka told reporters Wednesday that Smart is still dealing with a sprained ankle and is listed as questionable for Game 1 against the Warriors.
"Once the swelling goes down and the pain goes down, that obviously will improve his situation," Udoka said.
Smart injured his right ankle in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals while trying to grab a rebound on a shot by Grant Williams. He jumped up to grab the ball before landing awkwardly on his ankle.
The 28-year-old went to the locker room before returning to the court moments later to finish the game. However, he didn't play Game 4, though the Celtics won without him thanks to a 31-point performance from Jayson Tatum.
That said, Smart is still a significant component to Boston's success and the team will need him at least somewhat healthy in order to compete with Stephen Curry and the Warriors. Entering the NBA Finals, the veteran is averaging 15.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game in the postseason.
Smart's performance this season has even garnered the respect of Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who said he's "like the guard version of Draymond [Green]." In addition, Green himself lauded Smart while speaking with reporters Wednesday, saying he's a "great leader."
Game 1 between the Celtics and Warriors is set for Thursday night at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. While Smart is listed as questionable, it's hard to imagine him missing any time in the finals.