CHICAGO — When center Aron Baynes suffers injuries, he generally shrugs them off and tells the Celtics’ coaches and medical staff that he is fine and that he can play through pain, and that he just wishes they would let him do that.
That was the case as he recovered from breaking a bone in his hand earlier this season, and it is once again the case, as he works his way back from a left foot contusion that has sidelined him since Feb. 4. But Baynes relents because he sees the bigger picture.
“I feel great,” Baynes said. “Everything’s progressing well. It’s just a matter of them holding me back. But it’s for the benefit of myself. So I can’t really complain.
“It’s progressing along the timeline that they want. That’s where we’re at right now. Given everything, I should be on track for their timeline, which adjusts day to day as well. Because I’m progressing, the timeline is progressing.”
Although Baynes does not have a set return date, the big man is confident that it will be soon. He completed a vigorous running workout Thursday and then did shooting and conditioning drills at practice here Friday.
Baynes missed 16 games with the hand injury before returning Jan. 16. The Celtics then went 7-1 before Baynes was injured again. With the Celtics’ 126-116 loss in Chicago, they are 4-4 since the center was sidelined with the foot issue.
Although Baynes averages just 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, the Celtics have outscored opponents by 10.7 points per 100 possession when he plays.
“It’s bloody frustrating being out,” Baynes said. “You want to be out there going to battle with your guys. They’re playing really well now, which is a good thing. I’m confident everyone’s doing the right thing, and hopefully when I come back I can add something.”
Baynes began to experience foot pain in January, and when it lingered he underwent an MRI that revealed the contusion.
He said the pain is gone now, but the Celtics are essentially continuing with some preventive maintenance. There was some concern that if Baynes returned too quickly, he could suffer a more serious stress fracture.
“We’re just waiting now,” Baynes said. “It’s a long run. We’ve got 23 games left in the regular season, but the regular season is just the warm-up for the big show, so that’s what we’re trying to get ready for and that’s what I’m trying to get ready for.”
Depth has down side
The Celtics’ depth has been quite valuable this season. With multiple players sidelined by multi-day injuries, coach Brad Stevens has been able to pluck players from his bench and insert them into more sizable roles without really missing a beat.
But one downside of that scenario is that the Celtics’ talented second unit has not been able to log many minutes together. If Baynes returns soon and there are no new injuries, though, the Celtics will have another chance to see how they look when they are whole.
“We haven’t gotten a chance to play that group together as much as we’d like in the last month and a half, because we’ve been throwing a lot of guys in the starting lineup,” Stevens said.
“Kyrie [Irving] missed some games, Baynes has missed a bunch of games, Gordon [Hayward] missed the other day. But I do think the numbers have gone up in the last month and a half when they have played together, and that’s really encouraging, because we need that group to play well together.
Hayward returned on Saturday after missing one game with a sprained right ankle. He had 5 points in 24 minutes.