BOSTON (CBS) -- The Boston Celtics have sorely missed the presence of forward Jae Crowder the last few weeks, but his return is on the horizon.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens announced on Monday that Crowder will travel with the team on their upcoming five-game West Coast road trip, and told 98.5 The Sports Hub's Zolak & Bertrand (with Mike Flynn in for a vacationing Zo) that the forward will likely return at some point during the trip.
While there's no return set in stone, Stevens sounded very encouraged that Crowder will be back in Boston's lineup sooner rather than later.
"There would be a good chance he'd be back along the trip, but I don't know when," said Stevens. "We're not going to bring him back until he's cleared to play by our trainers and doctors and he feels good about it. He's itching to play and making good progress, and obviously he's a big, important part of our team."
Boston is 2-3 without Crowder in the starting lineup, with Marcus Smart and Evan Turner struggling to fill his shoes on the defensive end. But Stevens also pointed to the absence of Crowder's shooting on the offensive end as a big part of the team's struggles.
"When people think of Jae they think of a guy who can do a lot of different things, certainly as a defensive presence, but what people don't talk about enough is his shooting. He's shot the ball really well all year, and his ability to swing from the three to the four position has given us a lot more flexibility," said Stevens.
Before Boston can set their sights on their road trip, they have their hands full with the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night. The Celtics have dropped all three of their meetings against the Raptors this season, including a 105-91 loss in Toronto last Friday.
"They're a really good team and where they are for a reason. They have two All-Stars [in Kyle Lowrie and DeMar DeRozan] who can go and get their shot at any time and get fouled at any time," said Stevens. "We're going to have to play better than Friday night to give ourselves a chance to win. Hopefully we can build off the last two games (wins over Philadelphia and Orlando) and give them a better run at it."
Stevens also discussed slowing down Luis Scola early in tonight's game, and the road ahead as the Celtics try to clinch a playoff berth:
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