WALTHAM — The Celtics returned from New Orleans late Monday night after their disheartening loss to the Pelicans, and with a game against the Mavericks looming Wednesday, their schedule Tuesday was light.
They reviewed some film, did some five-on-zero drills, and had what coach Brad Stevens called a light “jog-through.” Although it was hardly an intense session, it was encouraging that forward Al Horford took part in all of it.
Horford continues to recover from a concussion that has now sidelined him for seven games. Still, it was unclear whether he would return to face Dallas, and he did not sound especially optimistic.
“Just not where I want to be right now, but trying to work through it,” Horford said. “This is something very new to me, so it’s just trying to get used to this.”
Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million free agent contract with the Celtics in July, suffered the concussion when he was inadvertently struck in the head by one of his teammates during practice Oct. 31.
He did not experience symptoms until the following day, when he left practice early and began the NBA’s concussion protocol. The return time from a concussion can vary greatly, and with increased awareness about potential long-term effects, the Celtics are being understandably cautious.
“I’m a competitor,” Horford said. “I want to be out helping my team and us growing together. But the last thing I want to do is have a setback, come in when I’m not supposed to, and setting myself back for a longer period of time.
“We’re trying to be as smart as we can about this. I just want to make sure that when I’m ready to go, I’m good to go.”
Stevens had said last week that Horford would not accompany the team on its two-game road trip to Indiana and New Orleans unless there was a good chance he could play in at least one of the games. But Horford sat out the win over the Pacers, and after taking part in shootaround Monday in New Orleans, he returned to Boston prior to the game.
“We need him,” Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas said. “We want him back, and hopefully he’ll be back sooner rather than later. You can’t mess with the brain; you can’t mess with the head. If he’s not feeling like himself, then he has to wait until he is.”
Horford said there have been times when he has felt good during his workouts, but as of Tuesday, he was not quite ready to play in an actual game. He said he did not want to get his hopes up about facing the Mavericks.
“I’ve been very motivated to come back,” Horford said. “This is just something very different. Like I’ve said, I haven’t dealt with anything like this before. So we’re really taking it day by day. That’s just all I can do right now.”
The Celtics have been outrebounded by an average of 6.2 per game in Horford’s absence. For six of those games, they also have been without starting small forward Jae Crowder, who is recovering from a sprained left ankle.
Crowder watched practices last week while wearing flip-flops. Although he did not take part in Tuesday’s session, he wore sneakers and shorts and completed some shooting drills with assistant coaches afterward. Stevens said Crowder would not play against Dallas, and he was unsure whether Crowder would return to face the Warriors Friday night.
Thomas, meanwhile, continues to play despite having a sprained middle finger on his shooting hand. He erupted for 37 points in the loss to New Orleans but said the injury causes some of his shots to come off of his hand wrong.
“I’ve messed my fingers up a little bit every now and then, but not like this one,” Thomas said. “This one swelled on me a lot. Bigger than usual. It’s just something you’ve got to figure out.”
On Tuesday, Thomas’s finger was wrapped in medical tape. He said the medical staff has been focused on reducing the swelling with ice and massage.
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After practice, Thomas and children from the Bridging the Gap program assembled Thanksgiving food kits for more than 300 Massachusetts families.