Marcus Smart’s improved level of play has been a significant factor in the Boston Celtics resurgence this year.
Once a trigger-happy sub-par shooter, Smart has become judicial with his shot selection, and has improved his ability to control the game on the offensive end. When the veteran guard was thrust into the Celtics’ starting five, as the team’s first-option point guard, there were some valid concerns – but Smart has answered all of them, and has gone from strength to strength as the season has worn on.
Those improvements haven’t gone unnoticed, especially from Boston’s coaching staff and front office. However, it would seem that Smart’s level of play has also earned him some fans from the team’s ownership group, who likened his impact to that of Celtics legend Kevin Garnett.
“I love the fact that he cares that much. And it’s infectious. Everybody cares that way. It’s like, in a different way. It’s like when KG was here. I mean, you just can’t let down when KG is around, or KG’s in practice, or if KG is on the floor with you. And I think Marcus brings a lot of that same energy and that same drive and it’s an important ingredient for a team to have that fight.
And Ime said in his first press conference last summer, that we’re going to bring the dog out in guys, and they’re looking forward to it. And I guess that’s what’s epitomized by Marcus Smart,” Wyc Grousbeck said during a recent interview on WEEI.
Udoka Believes Smart Is ‘Like Another Coach on The Floor’
If you’ve watched Smart play over the last few years, it’s clear that he thinks the game, and approaches his craft with cerebral energy. You see the 28-year-old dictating possessions to the team’s younger players or calling out coverages on the fly.
That’s the thing about defense, it takes all five guys on the floor to execute at a high level. And when you have a player with the basketball IQ of Smart, playing stifling defense becomes easier, because he ensures everybody knows their coverage on a possession-by-possession basis.
In a recent press conference, Ime Udoka likened Smart to a player-coach, due to the veteran guard’s ability to lead his team and recognize when the defense needs to switch their approach.
“Having a defensive-minded point guard who sets the tone every night. We’ve had a lot of discussions about matchups, and I encourage them to speak up during shoot-around about how they wanna guard certain things. We come up with our ideas, and as coaches, we come up with plans A, B, C, D, and sometimes with players, it’s about adjustments at times, more so than the starting coverage.
But to have him be a coach on the floor defensively, it’s been huge. I think the buy-in from the guys has been there all year, Marcus is a huge part of that because of what he does for the team. He’s been great all year, offensively, defensively, being a veteran voice in there, he’s like another coach on the floor” Udoka said.
Smart Is Boston’s Glue Guy
Every elite team needs a glue guy. A player that can bridge the gap between the coaching staff and the players. Somebody that can hold stars accountable and inspire rookies.
The Golden State Warriors have that guy in Draymond Green, the Miami Heat have it in Udonis Haslem, and every year a contending team attempts to add that type of leadership to their rotation by bringing in PJ Tucker.
Glue guys are an essential piece of the jigsaw puzzle. But, when that guy also boasts elite-level skills, they become an invaluable commodity to your roster. That’s why Green is still with Golden State, and it’s why Smart remains in Boston, despite the countless rumors that other teams have tried to pry him away.
Now that the Texas native has added an offensive edge to his game, the Celtics are soring towards the top of the NBA mountain, because their vocal leader is also contributing to winning on both ends of the floor. Smart might now be the most glamorous name on the Celtics roster, nor will he ever be a league MVP, but he’s certainly proving that his style of leadership can pay dividends, and the Celtics are reaping the benefits.