Donning a sweatshirt with the words “I LOVE BOSTON” surrounding his screaming face, Marcus Smart shared the team’s enthusiasm to kickoff the 2019-2020 season on Wednesday against the Sixers and maybe more importantly, officially start the year with his teammates.
Now the longest tenured Celtic on the roster, Smart has taken more of a leadership role in training camp, a responsibility he’s embraced all summer. During the lead up to the FIBA World Cup, head coach Gregg Popovich singled him out as a leader in the locker room despite fighting through injury during his entire time with Team USA.
Officially, the Celtics don’t designate a team captain with Brad Stevens opting for a more democratic approach, but if there’s a player that embodies the blue collar work ethic and selfless hustle that Boston fans spark to and players respect, it’s Smart.
Entering his sixth season, the #6 pick in the 2014 draft has seen nearly every iteration of the Celtics since rebuild started. He’s picked the brain of Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving and now, Smart seems eager to take a more senior role with the team.
“I’ve seen a couple of new faces throughout my years here. This one is definitely more exciting this year because of the new faces,” Smart said after practice on Saturday. “Everybody is up, everybody is keeping the same positive energy, everybody is on the same track, and everybody is really excited for what’s to come for us.”
The Celtics enter the year as the fifth youngest team in the league. But despite seven rookies on the roster, Boston is still a viable contender in the Eastern Conference. When asked about his mindset and leadership style, Smart replied, “amping things up, more talking, even more effort from me. Just really really really showing these young guys the right way, the right things to do, how to do it, and how to play on both ends of the court.”
Smart has made mistakes in the past. At Oklahoma State, he shoved a fan in the crowd. An argument with a hotel picture frame back cost him eleven games back in 2018. Earlier in his career, he was dogged by his reputation as a flopper and would often get into heated arguments with refs.
Those days are long gone now. In addition to working on his off court issues, Smart has improved his game on the floor and turned into a respectable shooter from behind the arc and a crafty playmaker at the point. Last year, he was named to the All-Defensive First Team and this year, it’s not inconceivable that he’ll be in the running for Sixth Man of the Year, too.