Celtics center Enes Kanter, who has missed the last four games with a left knee bruise, took part in Monday’s practice and said he hopes to play against the Cavaliers on Tuesday. Although the team officially listed him as doubtful, it appears he is getting closer to a return.
Kanter had 12 points and 6 rebounds in Boston’s season-opening loss to the 76ers before suffering the injury in the second half. He has been sidelined since then and Boston has rolled off a four-game winning streak without him.
“The team has been unbelievable,” Kanter said. “They’ve been playing amazing staying together. But, for me, my job is to go out there and bring physicality and just help the guys rebound. I think that’s the most important thing for us.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said that even if Kanter is cleared for Tuesday’s road game, the team will bring him back slowly. Kanter said he initially did not plan to miss any games after the injury.
“It’s tough, man,” Kanter said, “because you feel like you’re just not out there with your brothers . . . It’s a long season. You’ve got to make sure you’re back 100 percent.”
Stevens said Celtics forward Jaylen Brown is dealing with an infection related to his recent illness that forced him to miss two games and will not travel to Cleveland. He said that Brown may join the team later in this three-game road trip.
Time for Maine
The Celtics assigned rookie wing Romeo Langford and center Tacko Fall to the Maine Red Claws.
Langford, the 14th overall pick in June’s draft, was slowed by groin and knee injuries during the preseason. Although he is fully healthy now, Stevens said the Celtics decided that a full week of practice in Maine would be more beneficial than spotty playing time on a road trip.
“We just need him to get as many reps as possible,” Stevens said. “We had him play [the role of] Giannis [Antetokounmpo] in practice last week when we were preparing for Milwaukee and I thought it was his best day. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it was the day with the most reps. So I just think he needs reps. We think he could really help us, and this is the first step to doing that, I think.”
Fall, meanwhile, spent much of last week with the Red Claws before being recalled for Friday’s game against the Knicks when Kanter and Robert Williams were sidelined. As a two-way contract player, he can spend up to 45 days with the Celtics during the regular season.
“We’ve played multiple games now down two bigs,” Stevens said. “And that’s only five games in. So now we’re going to have him come up for one day [at a time] a lot I think, rather than a week at a time or two weeks at a time.”
The Red Claws open their regular season Saturday against Delaware.
The Celtics pummeled the Cavaliers in their two preseason meetings last month, winning the games by a total of 69 points. But Stevens is not taking much from those results as he prepares for the rematch. He said the Cavaliers have changed their style of play since the preseason as much as any team in the NBA.
“I think a lot of that has to do with playing to the strengths of [Kevin] Love and [Tristan] Thompson, who are great,” Stevens said. “And Thompson didn’t play in either of our preseason games, and he’s had a huge impact. And then those guards going downhill are all scary. The games I’ve watched, they’ve played pretty well, and certainly in a couple of their wins, I thought they dictated it the whole game.”
The Cavaliers, who are expected to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, are 2-4 this season.
Homecoming on tap
On Thursday, Kemba Walker will return to Charlotte for the first time to face his former team, the Hornets. But he is not concerned about that right now.
“The only time I’m really thinking about it is when somebody brings it up, honestly,” he said. “But, I don’t know, I guess I’ll just wait until the time comes. It’s in a few days so I don’t want to overlook this Cleveland game. I think it’s a really important game, so I’m just really looking forward to that.”