The Boston Celtics came into Monday night’s game with an underwhelming 10-10 record. Since the Toronto win back on November 16th, the Celtics came into New Orleans as losers of four out of the last five games. With losses to the Hornets, Knicks, Jazz, and Mavericks, and lone win to the lowly Atlanta Hawks.
Marcus Smart had some choice words to say to reporters following the loss to Dallas. “Words can’t even explain it. It’s like déjà vu all over again. Like, we keep saying and doing the same thing after every game. It’s getting really annoying. I mean, I don’t even know why to say to you guys at this point.” Each game it has come down to effort and execution. This was not an issue for last year’s team, and there lies the problem.
Coach Brad Stevens had this to say after the Knicks loss, “It’s not one guys. It’s not 2 guys. It’s all of us. We’re not playing with the same personality we played with last year. That’s the easiest way to describe it. And then the 50,000 issues that are below that, we have to tackle one at a time.” Collectively, this entire group has shown up to games expecting their presence to deliver wins. That’s just not how it is done in the NBA. Teams that take show up with that mentality will get chewed up and spit out on a nightly basis, and its showing.
Brad ripped this team apart in the presser following the Knicks game. It couldn’t end there, he had to make statements within the rotation as he saw fit. With Jaylen Brown sitting due to the tailbone injury he suffered on a fall in Dallas, the coach input Smart into the starting lineup. Coach Stevens wanted to set the tone from the jump-ball and that was evident.
Marcus went on to play all 40 minutes in this game. It was almost like Brad was sending a message to the rest of the team that if you play with the effort of number 36, you will earn your minutes. His stat line of 8 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block won’t jump out in the box score. The one thing that’s evident is the effort he gives on each and every play, and how contagious it was.
Throughout Brad’s tenure as coach of the Celtics, there had only been 5 players to play 40 minutes in a regular season, non-overtime game. Now Smart will be added to that list. Marcus Smart caused seven turnovers overall, five of which were forced in the 38 possessions while covering guard Jrue Holiday. He then showed off his versatility and covered superstar Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic on ten possessions, and only allowed 2 points.
A couple weeks ago Kyrie Irving told reporters of his desire to add a 14 or 15-year veteran to the roster for leadership purposes. As a guy who wanted to escape Lebron’s shadow in Cleveland and lead his own team, that is a soft choice of words. Yes, Kyrie may have stepped up his production since the haircut; but rising up to be a leader on a youth filled team is necessary.
Kyrie needs to look no further than teammate Marcus Smart. Smart is the epitome of hustle and perseverance. He is the guy you will see diving for loose balls, putting his body on the line to take a charge, or accepting the tall task to defend a player seven feet tall. In Smart’s rookie year he went for a loose ball against Celtics legend Kevin Garnett, who then played for the Timberwolves. KG recognized this and gave Smart a slap on the ass as a sign of praise. Well, Smart is the closest thing to KG in terms of hustle and heart on this roster. Boston as a city embraces this blue-collar work ethic and he’s in green for another 4 seasons. He holds himself to a standard, makes a difference, never complains about the given role, but focuses on the ultimate goal of winning. That is the sign of a true leader who deserves the “C” on his jersey. Give it to him Danny.