BOSTON -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Jae Crowder, sidelined since March 11 with a high ankle sprain, is scheduled to travel with the team during an upcoming five-game road trip that starts Saturday in Phoenix with the hope that he might be able to return to game action during the 10-day trek.
Stevens, however, continued to stress that while Crowder has made progress in his rehab, the team will remain cautious in bringing him back from the injury.
"Jae is progressing well," Stevens said before Monday's game against the Orlando Magic. "We think he’s about on the same timetable that I initially gave you, where you’re talking -- he’s obviously already close [to two weeks] ... but most likely that’s a very, very [ambitious] estimate."
Stevens originally detailed how Crowder would miss "two weeks minimum," though a survey of recent high ankle sprains around the NBA suggested a timeline closer to four to six weeks. Crowder met with reporters last week and was obviously eager to get back to game action, particularly with the Celtics in a recent funk that included a four-game losing streak during Crowder's absence.
Asked about the potential that Crowder might attempt to rush back, Stevens said, "I don’t even get into it. That’s our doctors and our trainers and the players. So I think that my best job is to stay away from getting in the middle of those conversations because I know that he really wants to play. I know he wants to expedite that. But, as a coach, I have to trust all of those guys to make the right decision."
Crowder hits the two-week mark of his absence on Friday, the same day the Celtics will travel to Phoenix in advance of Saturday's game that kicks off a trip out West. Stevens said Crowder will join the team in hopes that he'll progress well enough to return to action while on the road.
"Of course [he'll travel]. For sure, it’s a long trip," Stevens said. "And it’s within that time frame where he could play again. So, who knows when? But certainly the plan is to take him on the trip."
The Celtics won their first game without Crowder on Sunday in Philadelphia. The team had lost four straight and five of its last six before that while slipping as low as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Crowder's absence has hammered home his importance and solidified the notion that he's Boston's best two-way player. The Celtics have tried both Marcus Smart and Evan Turner in his starting role but have struggled to replace both Crowder's on-court contributions and his intangibles, like his intensity and leadership.
After appearing in Boston's first 66 games this season, Crowder admitted it's been difficult to be patient.
"I’m telling myself I’m good, but they’re telling me I’m not," Crowder said last week. "I just feel very sore. And I feel like, I’m close to being able to return, but we’re going to take all precautions, take our time with it. But I’m going to keep doing my part and working out and being ready to go."
Crowder is averaging career bests of 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.8 steals over 31.9 minutes per game this season. The Celtics own a net rating of plus-5.3 points per 100 possessions when Crowder is on the floor.