The Boston Celtics starting lineup isn’t yet set in stone, but if left as the 6th-man Marcus Smart could become a true leader and energizer.
Brad Stevens is going to mess with the Boston Celtics starting lineup on a nightly basis, and Marcus Smart will get some starts, but I believe he can be a true difference maker off the bench.
Smart is the longest tenured Celtics player, so he’s expected to be a leader here, and he certainly can be on that second unit with guys like Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum, and Daniel Theis. Smart is a true “team first” guy as well, so he doesn’t care if he’s starting or coming in off the bench.
Marcus acknowledged his belief in whatever coach Stevens chooses throughout the season. If Smart starts, he’ll be happy. If he comes in off the bench, he’ll be just as happy and will play just as hard. That’s just the type of guy that he is.
"“I’m totally fine with that. I had a talk with Brad (Stevens) and we actually discussed that. He was debating about whether starting me or coming off the bench for various reasons. I told him whatever you decide I’m with it. That’s the uniqueness about this team. No one really cares if they start or come off the bench. Everybody has to be ready, everybody’s gonna play a role, a big role when they come in the game. I’ve got to lead by example. Everybody keeps talking about I’m the longest-tenured Celtic. I’ve been here. I know what Brad wants on the defense and offensive end. I know we have a lot of guys, new guys, young guys, still coming in trying to learn, and they’re gonna be looking for someone who’s been there. And with me being in, that’d be me.”"
On Monday night, Smart was the 6th-man for the Boston Celtics preseason opener. When he came in, he played extremely well. He got into the game less than 5 minutes after it began, and he instantly provided a spark. Smart hit two quick 3-pointers to get the TD Garden buzzing, and he didn’t stop there.
On the night, Smart had nine points, four rebounds, and one assist in 13 minutes played. All of his points came on 3-point shots, as he was 3 of 7 from behind the arc.
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Smart’s improved shooting and conditioning can be attributed to his 25-pound weight loss this offseason. His added weight had been giving him back problems, and it really slowed him down in last season’s playoffs. Smart said that was when he knew he had to make a change.
"“Throughout the playoffs, I was having really bad back pains… It was really hard for me to move. My back was killing me during games, before games, after games. I just knew something had to change.”"
Smart knows that the weight loss will help him on the offensive end, but he prides himself on defense and knows it will help there too. To be able to keep up with players like John Wall in a playoff series, you need to be as fit as possible. Marcus is now, and this could be a true breakout year for him. The rest of the NBA should take notice and watch very closely.
Look for Marcus Smart to become a 35% or better 3-point shooter this season. He’ll be a lockdown defender like Avery Bradley used to be. And, he’ll make some highlight reels with a finish at the rim. 2017 is going to be a huge year for Smart and the Boston Celtics. They have the ability to make a run at an NBA title, and Marcus Smart could end up being the key to it all.