Marcus Smart Has Earned The NBA’s Respect


Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart never had the best image. He developed a bad reputation at Oklahoma State after shoving a Texas Tech fan in 2014 and that wasn’t even the first time his aggressive behavior was detrimental to that team. When Smart entered the NBA, that image came with him.

Smart joined the Celtics as Rajon Rondo’s backup. Rondo has a history as a difficult teammate, so many questioned if he’d be a bad influence on the rookie. Smart received two ejections that season and Rondo was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. Since the trade, Rondo hasn’t found a consistent home and Smart hasn’t received another ejection.

Even though Smart changed his ways over the years, his image outside of Boston hadn’t changed. Most NBA media attention goes to the leagues star players, so Smart only got national attention when he did something wrong. Without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics had no elite talent on the roster. The spotlight turned to a group of six and showed how much Smart impacts a basketball game.

In the 2018 NBA Playoffs, Smart’s averaging 10.5 points, five assists, four rebounds per game. In the Eastern Conference Finals, he’s taken his offensive game to another level with 7.5 assists per game. Even though those aren’t flashy numbers, Smart’s been dominant on defense and in transition.

Throughout the playoffs, Smart’s posted a playoff career-high 1.9 steals per game. In the conference finals, Smart boosted that number to 2.5 and swiped four in Game 2. While he’s attacking the basketball, he’s also been a pest for opposing shooters. The Cavaliers have shot 40.9 percent from the field and 24.6 percent from three the last two games. Smart’s ability to consistently disrupt opposing offenses has been a problem for every team he’s faced. 

Smart’s recent play improved the Celtics from a team without a chance to a team potentially playing in the 2018 NBA Finals. The Celtics did not have Smart for the first four games of the playoffs and the Celtics are 8-2 since he returned from a thumb injury. What makes Smart special is his willingness to throw his body around to help his team win. He gives it all on every possession. 

Smart’s willingness to win is exposing the Cavaliers defense. The Celtics lead all active teams with 13.4 second chance points per game. The Cavaliers lead all active team in opponent second chance points with 13.2. He’s not only setting up his teammates, he’s setting up his team for extra possessions. 

With Smart performing his best on the largest stage, he’s earning the NBA’s respect. Gritty bench players don’t often get the respect they deserve, so it’s nice to see Smart receive some of the praise the City of Boston has given him since the 2014 NBA Draft. When asked about Smart after Game 2, LeBron James had nothing but good things to say.

“I think Marcus always makes plays at the right time”

The praise didn’t stop there.

The Celtics will need Smart to make Smart-like plays if they want to advance to the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers lack grit, so Smart realizes he can lay it out for his teammates without much competition. With the Celtics up 2-0, Smart’s earned respect from around the league and changed his bad boy reputation. He’s showing just how important grit and defense is to winning a playoff series.  


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