As the Celtics completed practice Wednesday, 7-foot-2-inch forward Bol Bol walked along the edge of the court using a pair of crutches.
Bol and guard P.J. Dozier were acquired from the Nuggets last week in a three-team deal in which Juancho Hernangómez was sent to Denver. It was mostly a salary-clearing move for the Celtics as they maneuver to get below the luxury-tax line.
Dozier, who played for the Celtics on a two-way deal three years ago, is out for the season after tearing an ACL in November. He will be a free agent at season’s end and will likely continue his rehabilitation away from the team.
Bol underwent foot surgery last week and is expected to be sidelined 8-12 weeks, but the Celtics are hopeful that the big man is able to take the court before season’s end so they can evaluate him before he becomes a restricted free agent this summer.
“Quiet guy, he’s very quiet, doesn’t say a lot,” coach Ime Udoka said. “This is a new group for him. Obviously, he played with [Celtics guard Payton Pritchard at Oregon], so he has some familiarity there.
“But, overall, just a quiet guy. But he’s fine. He’s been around the group for a few days now and we’re just getting him up to speed with what we do and how we do things. And so, just good to have him around.”
Udoka said Bol has taken part in all team meetings, and he has attended shootarounds and practices as he tries to digest Boston’s system.
Bol, the son of former NBA center Manute Bol, was one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2019 draft because of his size, his shooting ability, and his lineage. He averaged 21 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks and connected on 52 percent of his 3-pointers in nine games as a freshman at Oregon before his season ended because of a stress fracture in his foot.
He was viewed by some as a first-round talent, but he slipped to the 44th pick in part because of concerns about his durability.
Bol played in a total of 52 games over his first 2½ seasons with the Nuggets, averaging 2.7 points and 1.2 rebounds. But he just turned 22 in November, so there is room for growth if he is able to stay healthy.
Udoka said there is no timeline for Bol’s return.
“The rehab process has started,” Udoka said. “Having him around the trainers and our guys, that’s the first step, and just having rehabbing with us.
“Get him comfortable with the guys and have him around for the most part until he’s able to start doing some activity on the court.”
Jayson Tatum said that his 0-for-20 3-point shooting drought last week was actually a blessing in disguise because it forced him to focus on driving to the hoop and drawing fouls.
Udoka said he’s been encouraged by Tatum’s approach, which was truly kick-started when he had 20 drives to the basket and 14 free throws in the game against the Trail Blazers last Friday.
“We want to encourage him to continue to attack, get to the free throw line, get to the basket, and then make the right plays, which he’s done all year,” Udoka said. “But you can see a noticeable improvement and focus on getting downhill.
“And due to the missed shots or not, teams are guarding him different as well, but when the shot is falling, it obviously brings the bigs up a little higher and you can attack there.”
Tatum snapped out of his long-range shooting slump in a big way, going 16 for 28 from beyond the arc in the last two games, both lopsided wins.
“It was one of those things where we loved what he was getting,” Udoka said. “He was just missing some easy ones. And so I think with him shooting the ball the way he is now and distributing as well, it kind of opens up the basket for him.
“And he’s recognizing who he’s playing against — shot-blockers vs. guys he can kind of go through — and just doing a great job overall of recognizing what he has from game to game.”
The regular starting lineup of Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford has played together in just 14 games this season but it has been effective, outscoring opponents by 21.9 points per 100 possessions.
Williams said the group’s success hinges on staying connected on defense.
“Just everybody holding their own and helping each other at all times,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing we’re doing. Even when we individually have slip-ups in the defense, I feel like the second line is doing a great job of having each other’s backs.”