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As Brad Stevens has considered whether to keep guard Marcus Smart in the starting lineup, he has run into one conundrum.

“The problem with starting Marcus Smart is you can’t bring his energy off the bench,” Stevens said Wednesday. “He’s a valuable guy in both of those areas for the same reason. Does all the intangible stuff you need to have success.”

In other words, Stevens would like Smart on the court as much as possible. The guard gave Boston a needed jolt when he entered the starting lineup in place of Jaylen Brown in Boston’s win over the Pelicans on Monday, but it was probably even more notable that he played 39 minutes, 40 seconds, his second-highest total in a regulation game in his five-year career.


Stevens said that Smart’s intensity is essential.

“I mean, he’s always been great with that,” he said. “Again, it’s super-important to our team that he’s in the game, and what he brings to the table from an intangibles standpoint. In the past that’s really aided us at the six-minute mark of a game, or in the first quarter, but clearly it aided us the other night at the start, and so we’ll see how it goes from here.”

Of course, during their frustrating start to this season the Celtics have had encouraging games that were followed by duds, so it is probably too early to declare a potential starting lineup with Smart as the cure-all.

But before Wednesday’s practice, Stevens sounded like he was leaning toward sticking with both Smart and Marcus Morris in the starting group, and the fact that the lowly Cavaliers are coming to town Friday should offer a good setting for the group to continue to develop a rhythm.

Smart said that he tries to play with the same intensity, effort, and energy whenever he is on the court. But he acknowledged that it is important if he is able to help set the tone quickly.


“We can come out early, kind of get things going, take a lot of pressure off of guys like Kyrie [Irving], who takes up a lot of the offensive things, and then having to come down and play defense and shut down somebody like a Jrue Holiday and their starting guards,” Smart said. “That’s tough on anybody, especially with the way we play and especially the way Kyrie plays. Being able to take the heat off of him on both ends is something.”

Also, Smart said, while he prides himself on his aggressiveness, it can sometimes be difficult to come off the bench and flip that switch in an instant.

“It is tough, especially when the adrenaline is going at the highest level and you’ve got to sit down,” he said. “The body calms down and you’ve got to get back out there and get it back up there again while you are cold and everyone else is warm. Trying to start it that way — that’s hard for anybody to do.”

The decision to start Smart against New Orleans was not especially difficult. Brown was out with a bruised tailbone and Gordon Hayward has been playing well with the second unit.

Stevens said that Brown is “progressing,” but the third-year wing did not practice and his status for Friday’s game is unclear. But at some point he will be healthy, and Stevens will be left with a potentially difficult decision.


Smart entered the starting lineup midway through his rookie season in 2014-15, and he began the following season as a starter, too. But he suffered a leg injury in November that sidelined him for just over a month, and when he returned, he was coming off the bench. It remains to be seen whether that will be what happens to Brown, too.

“I couldn’t let that affect how I played when I came in,” Smart said. “Some guys would see that as a negative because they had to come off the bench, but you can’t look at it that way. Eighty-two games, it’s a long season. Things are going to happen.”

Light schedule

The Celtics are in the midst of an unusually light portion of their schedule. In addition to the fact that they will not play a surefire playoff team until the Bucks come to TD Garden on Dec. 21, they have plenty of time between games to regroup, recover, and refocus.

They are currently on a three-day break before facing the Cavaliers on Friday, and then after visiting the Timberwolves on Saturday they will have four open days before their next game. Then after their Dec. 15 game against Detroit, they will get another three-day respite.

“I just think any time you get a chance to work on anything for more than just a walkthrough or a film session in a hotel room, I think that those are positives,” Stevens said. “I guess the positive that I took away from getting ready for today’s practice was, watching a couple of our preseason games, we really stunk there. So we’ve gotten a lot better, but we’ve got to keep building and growing.”


Stevens said Wednesday’s session would be one of the most intense of this season, partly because it was not bookended by any games.

“A lot of it, as we’ve talked about, is just being more consistent,” he said. “But I think there are subtle things we can do better and we’ll continue to work on those and we’ll focus on us.”

Watch the hands

The Celtics are averaging 13.2 deflections per game, the 12th-highest mark in the league. Stevens said he is not overly concerned about that specific stat, but he appreciates what it can indicate.

“Hand activity is really important,” he said. “We do more of the visual of hands than we do necessarily charting deflections and all that stuff. You can find stats anywhere you want to nowadays. It’s more important that we’re playing with the right hand activity, where our hands are in pick and rolls, where our hands are in [dribble hand-offs], etc.”

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.