Rookie Marcus Smart has yet to make an appearance as a Boston Celtic, but the newest member of the Celtics has wasted no time impressing his teammates and coaching staff as the team readies themselves for the start of the Orlando Summer League. The Celtics open their summer league campaign Saturday against the Miami Heat and in just a few short training sessions the former Oklahoma City star has made an impression.
Celtics’ big man Kelly Olynyk, who was in Smart’s position just 12 months ago, told Ben Watanabe of NESN that he has been impressed with his new teammate and he is not the only member of the roster to come out saying how good Smart has looked in practice.
“He has lots of energy, lots of enthusiasm, plays real hard,” said Kelly Olynyk, also a holdover from the 2013 summer league. “His skills are definitely there for this level. He’s really eager to get in the gym all the time, and I think he’s a guy with a great attitude, great energy.”
Smart, who was the sixth pick in the 2014 draft, is one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft and after returning to school for his sophomore season, appears more confident as a player and a leader coming in to the NBA. In his second season at Oklahoma State, Smart was one of the most well-rounded players in the NCAA and his stats reflected it.
He scored 18 points, pulled down 5.9 rebounds, dished out 4.8 assists and was among the national leaders with 2.9 steals per game. Smart’s aggression and activity on the defensive end is outstanding and no doubt a huge reason he is impressing the Celtics leading up to summer league.
Jay Larranaga, who was recently named as the lead assistant coach on Brad Stevens’ staff, is coaching the summer league squad and told Mass Live’s Jay King that Smart’s leadership and competitiveness has been a stand out in practice.
“I’d say the first thing you notice right away is what a competitor he is, the level of intensity he brings to every play offensively and defensively. He’s been a lot of fun to work with,” Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga said before Thursday’s practice, via MassLive.com. “I think we were very lucky we saw the leadership of Kevin Garnett, the leadership of Paul Pierce, and they lead by example more than anything else. So the example Marcus has set, even though he’s a young player, is that he plays hard, he values defense, he values team play. You have to lead by example before you do anything else.”
“Leadership can show itself in a lot of different ways. There’s guys that never say a word that lead well. There’s guys that are very loud that lead wrong,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said. “But then you’ve got a guy like Marcus who really shows himself well in all of his work and has a good vocal (presence) about him. He just has a natural ability to be what would probably be defined as a guy that a lot of people would say, ‘That looks like a leader to me.’ From what I’ve seen he certainly has that ability (to lead). That’s his reputation.”
Smart has said and done everything right since being announced as the Celtics’ top pick and this emergence as a leader before he has even played a game is a great sign going forward. Smart has embraced the city, has shown a deep knowledge of the Celtics’ history in interviews and his confidence in the NCAA appears to be going nowhere as he looks to compete at the next level.
Celtics fans get their first chance to see Smart in action on Saturday, and in four subsequent games during the Orlando Summer League. It sounds like Smart will be playing a lot of time at point guard so that vocal leadership will go a long way in helping him adjust to the position.
Much like Olynyk, Smart has the highly developed game to dominate the summer league and should be one of the real impact rookies in the competition. While rookies have a lot to learn as they adjust to the lifestyle and competition of the NBA, for Marcus Smart it will never be due to a lack of confidence, enthusiasm or aggression.