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5 things we learned about Celtics at trade deadline 02.20.15 at 12:20 am ET
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In the words of Ron Burgundy: “Boy, that really escalated quickly.”

Just when we appeared to be headed for a quiet trade deadline, seemingly half the league began swapping players and picks around as if there wouldn’t be another opportunity for years. When the smoke cleared, a record 37 players were moved by the deadline, and that doesn’t even include the future draft picks that changed hands.

So in wake of everything that happened today, here’s five things we learned about the Celtics at the deadline.

THE CELTICS LOVE ISAIAH THOMAS 

Thomas’ name came up in trade talks when Boston was rumored to send Rajon Rondo to the Kings last season, then again when Danny Ainge was the first person to reach out to Thomas as free agency began last summer, and now, obviously, the third time was a charm for Ainge. This is not a coincidence, the Celtics have been after Thomas for a while.

The 5-foot-9 Washington product was the last pick in 2011’s NBA draft but has far exceeded expectations during his time in the league. Last year with the Kings, Thomas produced averages of 20.3 points and 6.3 assists. So far this season Thomas has averaged 15.2 points and 3.7 helpers, but in limited minutes off the bench while helping his Suns team hold down a playoff spot in the West.

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say the Celtics front office see Thomas as its point guard of the future. But if I’m wrong– and this is one of the best parts of Thomas’ contract — his deal always remains a tradeable asset. Due just $27 million over four years, there’s really no risk to brining Thomas on board.

MARCUS SMART NOW IS A SHOOTING GUARD

With Thomas in Boston, Smart now likely becomes the starting shooting guard, otherwise a backup combo guard for the time being. Smart had briefly been in control of the starting point guard role before the All-Star break, and did a good job with it. Smart still may backup Thomas at point guard while seeing a majority of his minutes off the ball, but it would be nice to see Smart get assigned a position and stick to it. With that said, Smart has adjusted very well no matter what role has been asked of him. I expect that trend to continue and Smart to have a strong finish to his rookie campaign — including small ball lineups with Thomas and Avery Bradley. The bottom line is that if he continues improving his shot and his relentless defense, Smart is going to be a very good pro. If he has one area he needs to improve upon, it’s in getting to the rim.

AINGE IS BEGINNING TO CASH IN HIS CHIPS

You might not be able to call the Celtics buyers at the deadline, but just think back on each of Ainge’s trades over the summer and throughout the season. They all accomplished one of two goals — the first being to add future draft picks and the second being to move unwanted long-term contracts for expiring deals.

This trade — although Thomas is a nice long-term asset — accomplished neither. Ainge actually finally shipped out one of his future assets (a 2016 first-round pick from the Cavs) in order to add a piece of the puzzle. The Celtics will gladly use their two first-round picks in June’s upcoming draft, but things are starting to get to the point where Ainge is ready to pull the trigger on moving picks for players when the right deal presents itself as it did with Phoenix.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Danny Ainge, Isaiah Thomas
Marcus Smart earning trust as starting point guard 02.05.15 at 5:40 pm ET
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When Marcus Smart was selected No. 6 overall in this past June’s NBA Draft, many believed it would be to replace Rajon Rondo. The rookie had a slow start to the season that included an ankle injury and even limited minutes at times when he was available.

Rondo was shipped to Dallas on Nov 18, and since then Smart has continued trying to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates. On Feb 3 all of his hard work paid off when Brad Stevens named him the starting point guard for the Celtics. Smart’s playing time has gone up in each of his last five games, but he has set a career-highs in minutes in each of his two starts at the point.

In 37 minutes on Tuesday in New York, the Oklahoma State product poured in 13 points while also grabbing four rebounds, three assists and two steals. The next night, in 41 minutes of action while hosting the Nuggets, Smart only managed four points, but had maybe one of his most impactful games. Despite his lack of scoring, the 20-year old racked up 10 boards, dished out eight assists, and plucked three steals in the process.

“I just try to come out there and play hard,” Smart said of his new starting role. “Not worry about all the other things and just let my game come to me and let the rest fall into place.”

“I’m trying to push the ball and keep the pace up. I’m trying to attack the defense before they get set,” he said of his job as a facilitator.

Development with the ball in his hands is great, but may take some time. For now, defense is Smart’s calling card.

“I think you feel so good and comfortable with him defensively in the game,” Stevens said of Smart following Wednesday’s game. “I thought he did fine offensively. He had eight assists to two turnovers. He didn’t shoot a high volume of shots. I can’t think of many times where he made many mistakes defensively.

“He’s playing pretty well — without impacting the stat sheet too much, which is a good thing,” Smart’s coach concluded regarding his impact.

Even Smart’s peers around the league are taking notice of his abilities.

“I think he’s pretty good,” Denver point guard Ty Lawson confirmed following the game. “He’s tough. He’s pretty strong. He’s going to be a good defender in this league.”

But what’s the biggest impact of the C’s lineup change so far? Marcus Smart is a winner. The Celtics are 2-0 so far when he starts at point guard.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart, Ty Lawson
Will any current Celtics make a future All-Star Game? 01.30.15 at 12:55 pm ET
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Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

Is anybody on this Celtics team capable of playing in a future All-Star Game?

The current 14-man roster shares one All-Star bid, as Gerald Wallace appeared as a reserve in 2010, but the real question is whether or not any of the eight players currently under the age of 25 will ever receive an invitation. Needless to say, nobody on this year’s Celtics even cracked the top 50 vote-getters for good reason.

While we shouldn’t give up all hope on Kelly Olynyk or James Young just yet, it’s safe to assume Jared Sullinger and Marcus Smart offer the best hopes among these Celtics for a future All-Star nomination. So, let’s take a look at how the 2015 NBA All-Stars fared at the same stage of their careers as that C’s tandem.

BACKCOURT

Midway through his rookie season, Smart has averaged 6.7 points (54.3 true shooting percentage), 3.2 assists against 1.2 turnovers, 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 22.2 minutes over 30 games. How do those numbers rate against the pre-All-Star rookie averages for the 12 guards who made this year’s East and West rosters?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, Marcus Smart, NBA
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.

Read More: Marcus Smart,
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
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