Classic Marcus! Development of Smart
It’s crunch time: Two and a half minutes to go, the Celtics are down by one, and Jaylen Brown has his lay-up blocked. This could shift the momentum of the game in Detroit’s favor and seal Boston’s fate. But bam! Marcus Smart comes out of nowhere for the two-handed put-back. Classic Marcus.
He may only shoot 37.8% from the field and 30% from long range; but he’ll drain a shot from anywhere on the floor when the Celtics need it most. He may be the one green jersey under the basket, surrounded by three defenders; but he will find a way to rise up and grab that rebound. He may only average 10.7 points per game, 3.9 rebounds per game, and 4.5 assists per game; but he may very well be Boston’s most valuable player.
Marcus is malleable; when the Celtics need a scorer, he puts up seventeen; when they need a rebounder, he crashes the boards; and when they need a playmaker, he becomes a Floor General. Just look at what Marcus has done in the absence of Avery Bradley; over those eighteen games, he posted 11.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and 4.8 apg. When the Celtics needed someone other than Isaiah Thomas to step-up their game, Marcus was the first to answer the call.
As for his defense, Marcus is a stalwart. He’s fifth in the league in charges drawn, with eighteen to date and averages 1.7 steals per game. He has some of the best defensive instincts in the league, despite being only twenty-two years old. I’ve never witnessed a player literally rip the ball out of an opponent’s hands, the way that Marcus Smart does. That may not mean a lot coming from me; but when you have guys like Tommy Heinsohn and Mike Gorman echoing that call, it speaks volumes to Marcus’ defensive abilities.
Given how highly I think of Marcus, it probably does not come as a surprise that I frequently don my Marcus Smart gear. A lot of people I encounter haven’t the slightest clue who Marcus is (you’ll have to forgive me, I live in no-man’s land, sandwiched between Laker Nation and Warrior ‘Wagon Country). But every now and then, I find someone who is familiar with the Celtics and who insists on questioning my taste: “Marcus Smart, huh? How can you like that guy?” I generally take a few moments to calm myself down before I reply, “I don’t like him. I love him.” And how could I not? After all, Marcus Smart is the epitome of a Boston Celtic; he plays with fire, passion, and an infallible grit.
He’s the kind of guy who puts it all on the line night in and night out. It doesn’t matter who stands in his way, you can be sure that Marcus is going to do his damnedest to make sure the Celtics come out with the win. That’s not something coaches can teach or develop over time; it’s internal. Either a player has this inalienable drive to win or they don’t. Marcus Smart is special, in that he does.
Some might say that this fire I’m describing burns a little too bright in Marcus, at least at times. For example, Smart’s outburst during the Washington onslaught was not taken lightly by some. Personally, I loved it; the fact that he wanted to stay in the game, despite having already logged heavy minutes, speaks to his competitive spirit. A spirit that the team, as a whole, appeared to be lacking up until this incident. I’m not trying to justify Marcus’ actions here, but the fact that the Celtics went on to win eleven of their next twelve games, cannot be overlooked.
I could go on and on, describing every attribute that makes Marcus Smart the type of player that he is. But at the end of the day, I believe that Marcus’ best quality boils down to one word: reliability. Not in the sense that he is going to put up thirty points a night like Isaiah Thomas or Russell Westbrook. But rather, in the sense that he is going to bring it every minute of every game. In the end, it’s because of Marcus Smart and the qualities that he embodies that the Celtics are in second place today; and it’s because of players like him, that I call myself a Celtics fan.