BOSTON — Aron Baynes knew immediately it was bad.


 


He was going to keep going until someone noticed and told him he could not keep going any longer.


 


It was less than two minutes into the Dec. 19 game against the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden when the Celtics center suffered a fractured fourth left metacarpal while matched up against Suns rookie DeAndre Ayton.


 


But as play [...]

BOSTON — Aron Baynes knew immediately it was bad.

 

He was going to keep going until someone noticed and told him he could not keep going any longer.

 

It was less than two minutes into the Dec. 19 game against the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden when the Celtics center suffered a fractured fourth left metacarpal while matched up against Suns rookie DeAndre Ayton.

 

But as play continued, Baynes continued. He grabbed a rebound with his right hand and scored on a drive before finally getting the call to the sideline.

 

“As soon as I did it I knew it was broken,” he said prior to Monday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden. “I bent my fist and was like: ‘It’s not meant to bend there as well.’

 

“Got up and down a few more times. Unfortunately, there was a timeout that was called, and that was the end of my run.”

 

Only his teammates — specifically Kyrie Irving — were not immediately aware of the injury that would require surgery to insert a metal plate into the hand.

 

“Kyrie gave me (a high five) that I felt,” he said. “I didn’t realize it until I watched the clip again. I put my hand out, stupidly, with my left hand. He was a little bit pumped up at that time. Shouldn’t have done that one. Felt that.”

 

Baynes said on Monday his hand was back to feeling “100 percent” about an hour after being cleared to shoot off the pass and catch from assistant coaches for the first time since the surgery. Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Baynes will meet with the specialist again next week and could return to the lineup as soon as next the Jan. 16 game against the Toronto Raptors.

 

“It’s headed in the right direction,” Baynes said. “The plate is still not moving. That’s a good thing. I am cleared for everything but contact.

 

“It’s more so right now if I can do everything and still let the plate not move — the plate stays in place — then as long as it’s not going in a backwards direction I’ll be good.”

 

Baynes said he will likely wear protection on the hand at first upon his return.

 

“As long as he clears me,” he said of the specialist, “I will do whatever I have to do to keep him happy.”

 

Baynes said he’s tried to stay engaged with teammates during what has been a relatively fast recovery overall, but which has seemed longer to him.

 

“It’s tough not being able to step out there and go to battle with the guys,” he said. “I'm still trying to be around them as much as I can. Make myself known. Make sure I am still a part of the locker room as well. That’s a big thing.”

 

Without Baynes, the Celtics have mostly gone with Daniel Theis as the first big man off the bench to spell Al Horford — who has been on a minute restriction due to knee pain — with Guerschon Yabusele and Robert Williams picking up minutes in the post before Williams missed five games with a groin injury.

 

“Rob and have had a lot of time off in the last couple of weeks just having a chat,” Baynes said. “Pushing each other off court. Every time there’s a timeout, and those guys come out of the game, I try to talk a couple of things with them. It’s tough, though, because everyone has got words for them at that point.

 

“Just trying to help. Post defense is one area where I think I can help these guys in, and that’s what I try to talk to them a bit about.”

 

Three return

 

 

The Celtics welcomed back Marcus Morris, Irving and Williams back from injury Monday night.

 

Irving missed two games with eye inflammation after taking a shot from Marco Belinelli late in the New Year’s Eve game in San Antonio, and Morris missed a game with a neck strain suffered when he took a hard fall against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

 

Part of the game 

 

Stevens reacted before the game to the firing on Sunday of former Celtics assistant coach and Salem State graduate Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota: “Everybody that gets into coaching knows that we have an expiration date. That’s part of getting into coaching. But I think the world of Thibs. He’s a great coach. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet.”