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Ainge: Celtics Eye New Year's Return For Marcus Smart

BOSTON (CBS) -- Marcus Smart has resumed on-court activities with the Celtics, and the team is hoping to have the point guard back by the time the calendar changes to 2016.

"Marcus had a really good day yesterday," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher & Rich on Thursday morning. "He was on the court for the first time, was running around and felt good. Barring any setbacks, [his return is] looking closer to the end of the this month to the beginning of the new year. He looked good and we're excited that we'll have him back soon."

The second-year guard has been sidelined since bumping knees with Brooklyn forward Thomas Robinson back on November 20. He missed his 14th game on Wednesday night, and would miss six more if he doesn't return until after the new year. The Celtics have gone 7-7 in Smart's absence, and while Ainge has been pleased with the team's defensive play this season, he said the loss of Smart is starting to show.

"Marcus gives us the depth; you can always get by without one of your payers for a little time but it does catch up," he said. "Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley's minutes have increased in Marcus' absence. They've both had great years, but we need Marcus' defense and his versatility."

Ainge dismissed the notion that Smart is "injury prone," saying many of the guard's injuries over his first year-plus in the league have been very "fluky."

"I think he throws his body out there and plays basketball like a linebacker," he said. "He had a bad toe injury, dislocated fingers, sprained an ankle. Those things happen. I hope he's not injury prone."

Ainge isn't worried about the Celtics dropping three of their last four games, and is still impressed by their gritty play every night. He admits that the team is in need of a go-to scorer, and he'd prefer that kind of contribution to come from a big man. He couldn't discuss recent trade rumors involving the Celtics and Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, but said he would rather not bring in a player with trouble on and off the court for fear of disrupting a very good Boston locker room.

"We have good character on our team right now and some mature kids even though we don't have an old team," said Ainge. "I don't think it's ever a good idea to have players who are disruptive to your team, on the court and off the court."

Ainge also discussed the chances of some Celtics making the All-Star squad and shared some stories about hitting the gold course with the likes of Larry Bird and Michael Jordan:

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