Marcus Smart made history this year. The Boston Celtics veteran won the Defensive Player of the Year award, becoming the first guard to take home the prize since Gary Payton did so on the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996.
Payton was actually the one to present the away to Smart, as the Hall-of-Famer surprised him at the Celtics practice facility. Now, as the Celtics are taking on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, Smart is facing off against Payton’s son, Gary Payton II.
During his media availability on June 4, Payton II was asked about Smart’s DPOY win, specifically in relation to his dad presenting Smart with the award. He said that he’s happy for Smart, and to see his dad hand out the honor was a cool moment.
“Yeah, the times have changed and the game has changed since my dad won it, and now it’s dope to see another guard winning and my dad to go give it to the last guard who won it. It’s amazing. Marcus is tremendous on defense. He helps his team and he covers his team. I think he deserves it, for sure. That was dope for my dad to do,” Payton II explained.
Payton II wasn’t the only Warriors player to comment on Smart’s DPOY win, however. Klay Thompson spoke about the accomplishment ahead of the NBA Finals on June 1.
Thompson: ‘He Earned That DPOY’
During his media availability session ahead of the NBA Finals on June 1, Thompson was asked about playing against Smart for all these years. He showed the Celtics guard a ton of respect, admitting that “he earned” the Defensive Player of the Year award.
“As far as Smart’s game, you have to give the young man credit. He earned that DPOY. He improved his outside shooting, and he’s just become a very good two-way player. Guys who get the most out of their ability, you have respect for, and he continues to do that,” said Thompson.
Thompson entered the league in 2011, while Smart would join him three years later in 2014. They’ve been competing against each other for the majority of their careers, and now they are meeting on the biggest stage of them all.
With the Celtics up 1-0 in the series, Smart spoke about the team’s defense heading into Game 2. He said that they need to tighten things up a bit to avoid the issues they ran into on Thursday.
Smart: Celtics Have to ‘Lock Down a Little Bit More’
Warriors guard Stephen Curry exploded for 21 first-quarter points in Game 1, and through three quarters, the Celtics were getting worked over on the offensive end. While they were able to mount the comeback, Smart stressed the importance of fixing their defensive shortcomings in Game 2,
“Just lock down a little bit more. I think we fought so hard to take that lead into halftime in Game 1, they had a little bit more rest and energy coming out, a little bit more spark. We can’t allow that. Especially at this time, there’s no excuses for that. We’ve been doing it for a long time. We’ve had a lot of practice. We’ve got to fix it,” Smart explained.
Game 2 of the NBA Finals is set for Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.