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Marcus Smart talks about his much-improved jump shot 01.13.15 at 5:36 pm ET
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Marcus Smart has spent much of his rookie season battling through injuries. Lately, however, Smart has been quietly improving upon one of his biggest weaknesses — his jump shot.

It’s no secret that Smart needs to improve his 3-point shooting. I wrote about it — and why his lack of a shot means he should drive to the hoop more — earlier this season. Even Smart is aware of the criticism of himself, but that doesn’t mean he can’t fix it.

“That was the biggest knock on my game coming into the league was I couldn’t shoot,” Smart said following Monday’s win over the Pelicans. “Over the last 12 or 13 games I think I’ve been shooting the ball well and I’ve been in the gym every day.”

In Smart’s first seven games (five before his ankle injury and two while battling back and playing short minutes), he shot 6-of-28 from downtown for 21.4 percent. In his last 16 games, though, Smart has been much improved. The Oklahoma State product has shot 22-for-52 on 3-pointers, which is good for an impressive 42.3 percent over that span. To put that in perspective, that number would place Smart 11th in the league in 3-point percentage on the season, ahead of Stephen Curry (39.1 percent).

So what’s the cause for his improvement?

“Just trying to stay consistent with jumping straight up and down,” said Smart. “Not floating to the sides, left and right, just try to shoot the same shot. I’ve always known, ever since high school, what my problem was. It was just a matter of getting into the gym and working on it.”

Seems as though the work has paid off for the rookie recently, something his coach has taken notice of.

“He would probably say that he’s worked more deliberately and consistently than he’s ever done before,” Brad Stevens said at Tuesday’s practice. “That’s obviously an emphasis. We talked about it at the beginning of the year. We thought, coming in, that his shot was better than his percentages [Smart shot just 29.9 percent from deep in his final season in college], and we continue to think he’ll make shots.”

If Smart’s development wasn’t clear before Monday’s game, it is now. Up just one with under a minute left, Avery Bradley found Smart in the corner for a potential dagger. Smart knocked the 3-pointer down to clinch the Celtics‘ win without hesitation, something he likely wouldn’t have done just a couple of months ago.

Smart still could benefit from attacking the rim more. At his size — a 6-foot-4, 220 pound point guard — it certainly should be a bigger part of his game, especially since we saw him do it in college. But while he learns to find his way into the paint in the NBA, his new found jump shot is a great sign for Smart’s development going forward. If he can improve upon such a big weakness this early in his career, it makes you think that Marcus Smart has a whole lot of promise ahead of him.

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Brad Stevens praises Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart after C’s beat Pelicans at 8:38 am ET
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After a tough road trip filled with trades, the Celtics returned home Monday to collect an impressive victory over Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Jared Sullinger was a huge reason why. Sullinger finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds, stepping his game up against one of the top young talents in the league.

“I thought today’s a good example of his versatility,” coach Brad Stevens said of Sullinger’s big game. “When we had [Brandon] Bass in the game they usually matched up [Ryan] Anderson on [Sullinger], when we had Kelly [Olynyk] in the game they had to match up [Omer] Asik on [Sullinger]. And so when Asik’s on him he stretched it a little bit, and when Anderson was on him he posted. That’s why, in my opinion, a guy like Jared has to be able to do both if he’s going to be really good. I thought he did a lot of really good things tonight.”

While Sullinger really stood out in the box score, rookie Marcus Smart’s name would not pop if you only looked at the numbers. Smart’s contributions go beyond what’s on the stat sheet. He hit a 3-pointer out of the corner while falling down that clinched the game for the C’s — the most clutch shot of Smart’s career to date.

“He had nothing but zeros at halftime except for two assists and one turnover, and we talked as a staff, we thought he was terrific,” Stevens said of the No. 6 overall pick. “All that other stuff on a stat line isn’t where his impact can be the greatest, and he really made a huge impact, being his hands on balls, being active. I didn’t know coming into the game if he could guard [Tyreke] Evans and I thought he did a decent job on him — he’s a hard guy to guard, too. So he did a lot of great things. And obviously hit a big 3.”

Check out Sullinger’s postgame press conference below, but on a night when his Ohio State Buckeyes won the NCAA football national championship, Sully wanted to be brief so he could rush home for the second half.

Read More: Brad Stevens, Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart,
Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder carry leadership torch at 2:01 am ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

Whether it’s a direct result of trading Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green or a direct response to those deals, these young Celtics are playing with more purpose than they have all season.

“It’€™s kind of like being a younger brother,” C’s rookie Marcus Smart said following a 108-100 victory against the Pelicans. “You’€™re always told, ‘You can’€™t do this; you’€™ll never do this,’ and you just want to prove them wrong. And that’€™s kind of what we’€™re trying to do.”

Rondo has since admitted to a lack of effort during his final 18 months in Boston, and Green was notorious for showing up one night only to disappear the next. That’s a horrible message for young players, and probably part of the reason they’re gone.

“I’€™d like to see everybody carry the torch,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said of a void left by trading his two top players, adding: “Everybody has to be a leader, and I’€™ve seen just in recent weeks that there are more voices to be heard and more people that are stepping up and trying to be leaders, and time will tell whether they can be. Sometimes some voices snuff out the voice of others, and we’€™re tying to create a culture where everybody takes ownership and it results in the success of the team.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, NBA
Marcus Smart isn’t going to take anything from DeMarcus Cousins, or anyone else 12.31.14 at 6:58 pm ET
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Marcus Smart had a reputation in college as someone who wouldn’t back down. Now that reputation is carrying over to the NBA.

That attitude was on full display on New Year’s Eve Wednesday at TD Garden. In the fourth quarter of Boston’s 106-84 win over the Sacramento Kings, DeMarcus Cousins threw Smart to the floor after a box out under Boston’s basket.

Cousins had been frustrated by Smart running through a pair of picks earlier.

“I did have an issue,” Cousins said. “It didn’t start with the box out. It was the pick, he tried to run through my chest and then he came and I felt he took a cheap shot on the box out. That resulted to what happened. Even with that being said, I’ve got to make better decisions. The team depends on me every night and I just can’t do things like that.”

Asked if he thought Smart went low on the box out, Cousins said, “absolutely.”

“It was a box out. That’s his opinion,” Smart answered. “Everybody saw the play. Like I said, I’m not going to back down from anything and if that’s what he thinks, that’s what he thinks.”

Several years back, Cousins was hurt on a similar play while setting a pick.

“I did. Even with that being said, I’ve still got to make better decisions,” Cousins said. “I’ve still got to keep my emotions in check. Even with that happened, I still think that could have been avoided. I’m blaming nobody but myself for that.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Smart, NBA
With Rajon Rondo gone, Marcus Smart still isn’t quite ready to be ‘the guy’ yet 12.26.14 at 11:25 pm ET
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Friday marked just the second start in the NBA career of 20-year-old Marcus Smart.

It’s no wonder he isn’t quite ready to assume complete control of the Celtics‘ offense, even with the deck cleared following the trade of Rajon Rondo to Dallas last week.

Smart worked hard Friday (5 points, 6 assists in 31 minutes) but it wasn’t enough in the end as the Celtics fell to the Brooklyn Nets, 109-107.

“A lot of confidence, actually,” Smart said. “It just shows I’m getting back to the player that I was in the preseason and getting back to what this team needs, energy-wise, on the defensive end, and just trying to help my team.”

But asked if he’s ready to assume the role of Rondo, Smart stopped short of that complete commitment.

“Not really. I don’t feel like there’s a guy on this team,” Smart said. “Everybody’s the guy because you never know on any given night, it can be somebody’s night.

“It’s a lot. It’s a lot that comes with it but obviously, I’ve done a lot in my life and throughout my whole career through basketball to prepare me for this type of situation and to just to do whatever I can to help this team come out with victories.”

Still, only at 20, he’s earning the respect of his peers around the NBA. Take Kevin Garnett. KG fell on top of him while scrambling for a loose ball in the third quarter. After Smart got the ball ahead on the break, Garnett tapped him on the backside for his hustle on the floor. Afterward, Garnett said he was “trying to trip his ass.”

“Knowing KG, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Smart said. “The guy goes hard. That’s who KG is and that’s why a lot of guys respect him.”

Smart could laugh because he’s becoming more and more comfortable assuming command of his team.

‘€œFelt very comfortable. Practiced the other day helped that. Went over some plays and getting guys in the right spots so I was able to know where guys were going to be and try to find them today.’€

Smart found out on Christmas Day that he was starting on Friday.

“Coach [Brad Stevens] called me before practice and told me that I was going to be starting and just to keep bringing the energy,” Smart said.

“Both, practice time and conditioning. With an injury you tend to sit on the sideline and your conditioning goes and its easy to get out of shape then it is to get into shape. Getting those minutes and practice time has put me back into the shape that I was in in the preseason.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Garnett, KG
Kevin Garnett says winning in Boston with Rajon Rondo made Celtics ‘infinite’ at 10:32 pm ET
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In many ways, coming back to TD Garden was surreal and odd for Kevin Garnett Friday afternoon.

It was the first time the 38-year-old future hall of famer has been back to Boston since the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo away to the Dallas Mavericks. And it might be the last time he gets a standing ovation from the Garden crowd that had a love affair with his game for six unforgettable seasons in Celtic green.

After Garnett’s Nets managed to escape with a 109-107 win over the Celtics, Garnett reflected on playing a Boston team that no longer has any members of the 2008 championship squad.

“I’ve been getting a lot of ‘Rest in peace’ texts and stuff, so I had to change my number,” Garnett said. “It’s all good, though. We’re infinite. Once you win once, you win forever.”

Garnett didn’t have a big role in Brooklyn’s win. He had just six points and four rebounds in 17 minutes and didn’t play the final 17 minutes in which the Nets rallied from a 12-point deficit to win.

Before Friday’s game, he received a standing ovation in the dark from the fans who came out to see him play in Boston for perhaps the last time in his career.

“It’s always love here,” said Garnett. “It’s always an appreciation that I can never give back, other than the salute. Winning is infinite. And I’ll always have that special relationship with this city.”

Garnett admitted that he has indeed given some thought to the end of the road coming at the end of this season and that Friday might have been his swan song in Boston.

“At this stage it’s always somewhere lurking in the back, probably whether I admit it or not,” Garnett said. “But, if I’m being truthful with you, sometimes [I do think about it]. Seeing Paul [Pierce] the other day, he was in town to play the Knicks and we had a conversation. So, at this stage, we know that things are not taken for granted, but more appreciated. It crosses [my mind], I wouldn’t lie about that.”
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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Garnett, Marcus Smart
Magic 9-Ball: Rajon Rondo Trade Barometer v4.0 12.09.14 at 1:20 pm ET
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Let’s face it: This is the season of Rajon Rondo. As interesting as it is to evaluate the frontcourt progress of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley‘s offensive potential and Jeff Green‘s surprising consistency, the biggest questions the Celtics must answer all involve Rondo. Just how good is he? Will he be traded? What can they get in return? In a weekly feature on Green Street, we’ll take stock of the Celtics captain’s status every Tuesday.

RAJON RONDO TRADE VALUE

Either Rondo hasn’t fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered nearly two years ago or he’s no longer capable of carrying the Celtics offense the way he once did during four straight trips to the NBA All-Star Game from 2009-13.

We may have to accept one or the other as fact.

Rondo’s 32.1 minutes per game are the lowest of his career since former Celtics coach Doc Rivers handed him the keys to the duck boat during the 2008 playoff run, and he’s been atrocious in back-to-back performances this fall after sitting out those games last season. The Celtics have played three back-to-backs this year, and here are the point guard’s performances in those contests.

  • Celtics 106, Bulls 101: DNP. The Celtics opted to keep Rondo home in order to remove screws from his surgically repaired left hand.
  • Celtics 109, Pistons 102 (OT): 34 min, 2 pts (1-6 FG, 0-1 3P), 8 ast (4 to), 3 reb, 3 stl. At the end of regulation and for portions of overtime, the C’s deliberately kept the ball out of Rondo’s hands, even benching him for a stretch in favor of Evan Turner, a superior free throw shooter.
  • Wizards 133, Celtics 132 (2OT): 21 min, 0 pts (0-3 FG), 4 ast (3 to), 2 reb, 1 stl. Rondo did not return once Marcus Smart replaced him with 5:20 remaining in the third quarter and the Celtics trailing by 20.

As you can see, the C’s finished 2-1 in those games, only losing to the Southeast Division-leading Wizards in double overtime. Any way you slice it, there’s been a stark contrast between rested Rondo and fatigued Rondo.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, NBA, Rajon Rondo
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