Patience was at the forefront of Marcus Smarts’ mind at the Boston Celtics’ Media Day on Monday. “Really, just patience,” the rugged guard replied when asked what lessons he’d learned from the previous iterations of the team.
“You know, it’s gonna take time. I’ve played the two position, the one position, the three. And it takes time. You gotta take a deep breath. You can’t get too high or too low. You’re gonna have days where you’re doing good. You’re gonna have days when you’re doing bad, but really just being patient with yourself on the court and with the process that it takes.”
Smart’s comments speak to the significant roster turnover the Celtics went through this summer. Gone are stars Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, replaced by Kemba Walker and some combination of Enes Kanter and Vincent Poirier respectively. Boston will need time to coalesce around a new identity, as players grow accustom to one another’s games.
The rest of the Celtics - who learned all too painfully how miserable things can get when sky high expectations are hoisted upon you prematurely - would be wise to adapt a similar mindset to Smart.
They’ll have a friendly face reminding them as much all year long. Head coach Brad Stevens is as devoted a follower of the principles of patience and unflappability as one will find in the NBA. It would appear he’s begun to rub off on the player that has spent the longest time under his tutelage in the NBA ranks.
Smart is both the longest tenured player on the Celtics’ roster, and the only holdover from the 2014-15 season, his first and Stevens’ second in Boston. That the two would have some overlap in perspective after sharing so much time together comes as no surprise, but Smart’s attitude is partially attributable to another variable as well: age.
“Yeah, I’m getting older,” Smart said wryly when asked about sitting out with a calf injury during the FIBA World Cup play. “Your body takes a little bit longer to recover know, as you get older. Back probably when I was a little bit younger I probably would have tried to play through the calf injury, and probably would have caused a little more pain, and probably something else worse.
For me this year is really about being that veteran player, and understanding when to push it and when not. Everybody knows how hard I am, and how tough I am, and sometimes I feel like that gets the best of me, where I feel like I’m hurt and I can probably still play through it. And I’d probably risk it, by going out there and trying instead of giving myself that time to recover and to get back 100%.”
Smart’s definition of exactly what qualifies as enough time to recover exists on something of a sliding scale. He’s a maniacal competitor who routinely returns from injuries ahead of projected timelines. His stated focus on remaining patient with his health and with his teammates is noteworthy. It’s indicative of his maturation as a basketball player.
But anyone who thinks it means he’s taking his foot of the gas when he’s on the court, however, is getting the wool pulled over their eyes.