Chris Forsberg over at ESPN Boston summarized Marcus Smart's involvement with Team USA and it's great to hear that some of the country's best basketball minds love the kid. He won gold with the under-19 team last summer, was in last summer's Team USA workout, and is one of only two NBA rookies at this year's USA Basketball training camp. I love this snippet from Gary Parrish's piece from last year:
Smart is in elite company, and it's all a testament to the impression he's made on USA Basketball the past two summers while winning championships at the U-18 and U-19 levels. Even when Smart doesn't play well, he still leads and competes intensely and consistently in a way that impresses everybody, Ford included.
"I've never been around another player in my whole life -- not when I was a player and not since I've been a coach -- that is able to bring it EVERY SINGLE DAY," Ford said. "I don't care if it's two-a-days, three-a-days or five-a-days. I don't care if it's 6 a.m. I don't care if it's the day after a big win. It's ridiculous. I knew he was a great leader, but it's even been a shock to me. Everybody, at some point, has a bad day in terms of coming ready to play. But he never takes a day off. He comes everyday to win every drill. Everyday. Every drill. I don't care when it is or what it is. Everyday he's ready. It's ridiculous."
That's a strong quote. And, I can tell you, it's not an opinion unique to Ford. Over the past year, I've talked with nearly everybody connected to USA Basketball who has worked with Smart -- from Florida's Billy Donovan to Gonzaga's Mark Few to VCU's Shaka Smart. They all absolutely love him, even admire him, as a leader and competitor.
They featured some of the scrimmage on NBATV this afternoon and the Twitterverse was buzzing with some of Smart's game:
Celtics rookie Marcus Smart really opening eyes as member of Select Team in scrimmages vs Team USA. Going up against Kyrie, Rose, Wall, etc.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) July 30, 2014
Marcus Smart is lighting it up. Just hit three consecutive 3s at #USAmbb minicamp— Matt Gibson (@DimeMatt) July 29, 2014
Marcus Smart just hit a NBA 3-pointer without hesitation at Team USA camp so that's scary.— Tim Cato (@tim_cato) July 29, 2014
One thing Marcus Smart is excellent at is on ball defense. Putting the straps on Kyrie currently— P. (@POLO_DRO) July 29, 2014
Marcus smart ballin in this scrimmage cuffing john wall— unknown (@_eeus) July 29, 2014
Rave reviews continue to pour in from Vegas from coaches in attendance on Marcus Smart & Victor Oladipo. Both impressive on practice squad.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 30, 2014
Smart wasn't exactly lighting nets on fire in the Orlando Summer League (29.4 FG%, 25.7 3FG%), so hearing that he shot well against some of the league's best is encouraging. More importantly, his defense was a factor against elite point guards Kyrie Irving and John Wall. He was a scorer at Oklahoma State, but there's usually a learning curve in the transition from college to the NBA. As long as he keeps bringing it on the defensive end and doing the intangibles, he'll continue to impress Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens, Jerry Colangelo, Coach K, and Celtics fans alike.
On a lighter note, before the training camp, Smart was in Vegas to promote adidas' new Crazylight Boost after the shoe company signed him to a $1.2M deal. For what it's worth, adidas also inked Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. That's nice company for the Celtics' rookie. Here he is throwing down in a 3-on-3 pick up game with USA Select teammate Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jrue Holiday:
It's hard not to get excited for the rook. Two more months until training camp...