By: Matthew Schlegel
There are always a few players around sports that mean far more to their respective teams than the numbers would indicate. Guys that seem to play their best ball in the biggest moments, and no one embodies this type of player better than Marcus Smart. Known around Boston as “the heart and soul” of the Celtics, the former number 6 overall pick is the ultimate team-first player as well as the longest-tenured Celtic. After being named to the NBA’s first team all defense a season ago, Smart somehow managed to have an arguably more impressive defensive showing in the ’19-’20 season. He calls himself a “stretch-6,” more than willing to matchup with anyone on the floor, point guard through center, and even beyond. His tireless work on the defensive end, as well as his impact all over the floor, earned him some praise following an early March contest with the Brooklyn Nets, where Dwyane Wade advocated for Smart to be named the defensive player of the year;
“Listen, I know that this award is normally a big man’s award, but this year, we need to get back to the Gary Paytons of the world, the Michael Jordans of the world, where guards get the Defensive Player of the Year award.” He then added, “What Marcus Smart has done, I mean you saw him tonight when he met [Allen] at the rim, I mean he’s fearless. And it’s not just the blocks, it’s the hustle. It’s the diving on the floor for the ball, it’s the switching one through five that the guy does.”
While averaging 13.5 pts /4.8 ast /3.8 reb is not particularly impressive, you’ll never understand the Marcus Smart experience on paper. If we’re gonna talk about Marcus Smart lets not waste time with statistics, shooting splits or any of that nerdy bullshit. Numbers will not tell the story of what kind of impact he can make for this team, so allow me to flip the switch into “very biased Celtics' fan mode” to paint a better picture. The honest truth is Marcus Smart will punch you in the mouth and steal your lunch money, and there’s no statistic for that. He will swipe the ball from your best ball handler, bully your big men in the post and drop dimes all over the floor. The best part? He’ll be laughing in your face the whole time.
I have been pleasantly surprised to see the strides he has made on the offensive end as well. His first few years in the league were partnered with some dreadful shot selections and abysmal three-point shooting percentages, but over these last six years, we have watched Smart blossom into a reliable perimeter shooter, strong ball handle, and a gifted playmaker. Needless to say, it has been nearly four months since the Celtics last played a meaningful basketball game, which is four months without Marcus Smart in my life. For those counting, that's four months too many.