Marcus Smart has been everywhere recently, as he continues to push his credentials as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and as the starting point guard for a Boston Celtics team chasing another championship banner.
Earlier this week, we saw Smart appear on ESPN’s NBA Today with Malika Andrews, and then, on Tuesday, April 5, the Celtics guard was a guest on the Celtics Talk podcast with NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg.
Smart hit on a range of topics during the podcast interview, but the most notable discussion came when talking about the Celtics’ ability to shock the world and win a championship this season.
“I mean, whatever we put our mind to. If we come out with the right mindset, and the right focus, I think we can do something big and hang another banner. I know every team says that but not every team actually has an opportunity to do that. We’re one of the teams that do (have an opportunity). As long as we can stay focused, stay healthy, and play the game the right way, then anything is possible for us. Literally,” Smart told Forsberg.
The Celtics are currently second in the Eastern Conference standings, two and a half games behind the first seeded Miami Heat, and tied with the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. With teams such as the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks hovering in the play-in tournament spaces, seeding will be vital in providing the Celtics the easiest path to the finals – as nobody will want to face Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the opening round.
Smart Discusses Being Boston’s ‘Swiss Army Knife’
Throughout his Celtics career, Smart has often played the role of the team’s chameleon, morphing to fill the gaps within the rotation and adjusting his game for the good of the team. Sure, Smart has always played with a certain level of commitment on the defensive side of the floor, but on offense, we’ve never truly seen what the 28-year-old brings to the table – until this season, that is.
During his podcast with Chris Forsberg, Smart touched on his multiple roles within the team’s rotation, and how it limited his impact on the offensive end of the floor for the majority of his career.
“I couldn’t really perfect one thing; I had to be good at a lot of things. Whereas guys they focus on one thing: If you’re a scorer, you focus on scoring; if you’re this, you focus on this. I had to focus on a lot of things that I couldn’t just perfect one thing. So being in that point guard position where I’m comfortable, it allows me to portray all those aspects of my game that I have to have, as a Swiss Army knife, and the versatility that I bring to be able to do those things on the team,” Smart said.
When you look at the veteran guard’s season statistics, it seems like he’s playing at a similar level to previous years. But, when you watch him play during games, the nuances of Smart’s improvements are clear for everyone to see. The Texas native is now far more judicial with his shot selection and is happy to attack the rim when a driving lane opens up, while his control of the game and ability to make the right read time after time have also made him integral to Ime Udoka’s style of play.
Celtics Team Chemistry Fuelling Second Unit’s Production
Boston’s bench unit has been the subject of criticism throughout the season. From a lack of bench scoring to a perceived drop-off in talent – the narratives have been swift and wide-ranging. Yet, since the turn of the year, and especially since the February 14 trade deadline, Boston’s bench mob has been stellar in keeping things afloat while the starters catch their breath.
Derrick White has been a superb addition to the Celtics bench unit, while Payton Pritchard is lighting it up from beyond the three-point line, and Grant Williams has an argument for Most Improved Player this season. Of course, we all would prefer to have seen further development from Aaron Nesmith, but there’s plenty of time for that down the line.
“And I’ve been doing this for eight years and I know that, when those guys come in, and the starters are sitting, if you’re just sitting there looking like you’re not even invested, those guys are going to feel the exact same way and their confidence is going to continue to go down. When we come out the game and they look over the bench and we’re talking to them, they hear us cheering, encouraging them, they feel good about themselves,” Smart said on the Celtics Talk podcast.
With Robert Williams set to miss the entire first round of the playoffs, and possibly some of the second round, the Celtics will be relying on their bench unit to continue providing the goods. And if Smart and the rest of the Celtics roster can continue doing their part to embolden the sixth, seventh, and eighth man in the rotation, there’s no reason why this team can’t approach the post-season full of confidence make some noise in the process.
The Celtics are back in action on Wednesday, April 6, when they face the Chicago Bulls on the first night of a back-to-back that will also see the team face the Milwaukee Bucks on April 7.