TORONTO — Celtics guard Marcus Smart said the eye infections that have sidelined him since Dec. 9 have been “hell,” and that the condition was so severe there were some concerns he could permanently lose some of his vision.
“It was the worst pain that I’ve been through in a very long time,” Smart said before Wednesday’s 118-102 victory over the Raptors, speaking to the media for the first time since he was sidelined. “I don’t wish it on anybody. But I’m here. My eyes feel better.”
Smart said doctors initially thought he was having some kind of allergic reaction, but that was ruled out after the issue spread to from his left eye to his right eye, and he was diagnosed with viral conjunctivitis. He said doctors told him it was the worst case they had ever seen.
The greatest concern, Smart said, was that the virus could spread to the back of his corneas, which could possibly cause permanent damage to his vision.
“It was painful, it was burning, it was really hard,” Smart said. “I couldn’t see. I had outdoor sunglasses everywhere. Even in the dark I was wearing sunglasses. It was that bad.”
Smart said his eyes were sealed shut with discharge every morning and doctors had to pry the mucus out just so he could open them.
“I was bleeding tears every time they did it, for like a day,” he said. “They did that for about four days straight. The first day was probably the worst, just because it built up so much that it started to scab under my eyelids, and they had to open the scab and then pull it out. It felt like they were putting needles in my eyes.”
Smart, whose eyes appeared sleepy Sunday but no longer as puffy as they did earlier this month, said he is still undergoing daily checkups to ensure that there is no issue with his corneas. He is using two kinds of eye drops each day, which is a small sign of progress, because previously he was using three.
He is still adjusting to light — he said he could not even watch television initially — and that he has lost about six pounds since he contracted the virus. He said if there is a silver lining to this ordeal, it’s that the time off has allowed his other bumps and bruises to heal.
Smart was scheduled to complete an on-court workout prior to the Celtics’ game against the Raptors on Wednesday. He said he feels like he is about 80 percent ready to return. He does not expect to play against the Cavaliers on Friday, but could be back soon after that.
“It’s definitely a process,” Smart said. “It’s an annoying process. But I’m just blessed to be able to come back and get through this.”
Celtics center Enes Kanter said he was overjoyed to cross the US border for the first time in over a year to play in Wednesday’s game against the Raptors.
Kanter, an outspoken critic of the Turkish government, had his Turkish passport revoked in 2017 and last year had an international warrant issued for his arrest. But he and the Celtics worked closely with the Canadian government to ensure that he could come to Toronto for this game with no issue.
“It’s more than a game to me,” Kanter said. “It’s definitely more than a game to me, because coming here it’s the first time I’ve been outside of America in years and it’s definitely a blessing to play on Christmas, especially in Toronto.
“It feels good to be out. It feels good to be free. It feels good to enjoy this time with my teammates. It’s amazing. I want to thank the Canadian government for making everything so easy and for making everything so smooth.”
Kanter had 12 points and 11 rebounds in 18 minutes on Wednesday.