WALTHAM — As the Celtics crafted their impressive 95-92 win over the Grizzlies Wednesday, Isaiah Thomas was watching from a hotel room — his temporary home since arriving here last month — and he could not sit down.
It was partly because the guard was excited to see his team playing well, but it was mostly because, well, he just couldn’t sit down. Thomas severely bruised his lower back in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ win over the Heat Monday night, and the injury has left him largely incapacitated.
“It’s been bad,” Thomas said Thursday. “It’s been hurting when I stand up, sit down. Nothing’s comfortable. I’ve been very uncomfortable the last few days.
“I’m trying to get the swelling out as fast as possible, and once I can tolerate the pain, I’ll be all right.”
Thomas, who is averaging a team-leading 21.4 points and 5.4 assists per game since being acquired from the Suns Feb. 19, does not expect to play in the Celtics’ two games this weekend. He is hopeful that he’ll face the Philadelphia 76ers Monday.
Thomas suffered the injury when he fell after being fouled by Dwyane Wade with 3:44 left in the fourth quarter against the Heat. He also injured his elbow on the play, but he said that pain is now more tolerable.
Thomas said that on the flight back to Boston his back “blew up,” and when he was reevaluated Tuesday, a doctor told him he’d never seen such a deep lower-back bruise.
He didn’t attend the win over the Grizzlies because it would have been too painful to sit on the bench for two hours. He has mostly been icing his back, standing rather than sitting, and sleeping on his stomach. Still, he was thankful that the injury was not more serious.
“I’m tired of watching, and I’ve only watched one game,” Thomas said. “I hope I can play on Monday. As soon as possible, as soon as I can get out there, I’m going to play. I’m moving better every day, but it’s still very sore.”
On Thursday, the Celtics held just their third practice since acquiring Thomas, Jonas Jerebko, and Gigi Datome. The NBA’s grueling schedule makes it difficult to squeeze in full team workouts. When there is time, coaches are sometimes reluctant to practice because they know their players need rest.
Still, Brad Stevens said he hasn’t had to adjust his approach very much since his days coaching at Butler.
“I probably never went above an hour and 15 minutes in January and February as a college coach,” Stevens said. “Very, very rarely. You have a little bit more time in between games, so maybe you’ll go with a couple live segments two or three days before a game, but I probably practiced less than most.
“I’m a big believer in film. I’m a big believer in individual film and I’m a big believer in freshness, so we try to keep them as fresh as possible here over the course of this time. And February and March in college are the same way.”
Although Thomas has emerged as the Celtics’ late-game star, there is still a sense that the team’s final shot could come from anyone, and the players believe that makes them tougher to defend late in a game.
Last week, Tyler Zeller hit a buzzer-beater to beat the Jazz. On Wednesday, Marcus Smart put the Celtics ahead on an acrobatic 3-point play, and Avery Bradley clinched the win with a 21-foot jump shot with 7.9 seconds left.
“You don’t know who the shot is going to,” forward Brandon Bass said. “Avery closes out last night, and he didn’t play in the last couple games. [Thomas], when he’s back, we’ll probably get the ball in his hands. Evan Turner could have it. I want to have it. So, hey, it’s good to be part of a group like that.”
A matter of time
The NBA, the NCAA, and the National Association of Basketball Coaches have created a proposal that would push the NBA Draft withdrawal date for American college players back nearly five weeks, to late May. The purpose would be to give players more time to determine whether they are likely to be selected.
Underclassmen would participate in an invitation-only combine in mid-May that would allow them to get a better gauge of their standing. If a player declares for the draft but is not invited to the combine, it would essentially be a message to stay in school.
Stevens had two players — Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack — leave early during his time at Butler.
“I’d like it from the standpoint of if I was a college coach, that there would be more time for the kids to think and there’d be more time for kids to finish that semester strongly in the classroom,” Stevens said. “I think that’s a big deal.”