WALTHAM, Mass. — The last week or so — or everything since Oklahoma State’s season ended in March, actually — has not been about basketball for Marcus Smart. Not really.
Smart has had a basketball either in his hands and on his mind plenty, to be sure. His body and his game were analyzed inside and out during the pre-draft process, to the extent every measurable element of his skills and tools was recorded.
But that wasn’t basketball. That was a dog and pony show.
“Exactly,” Smart said Tuesday at his first official practice as a member of the Boston Celtics. “These last couple days have been a whirlwind. There’s been a lot of celebration, excitement, hype and all that, but now it’s time to just finally get back on the court and put work back in. That’s what we do. We put in work and we get back to it.”
Smart is one of 13 Celtics players or hopefuls working out this week in preparation for the 2014 Orlando Pro Summer League, which begins this weekend. As practice wrapped up Tuesday, he took part in a 3-point shooting competition with second-year guard Phil Pressey, who has the odd job of helping Smart get acclimated to the NBA while trying to keep the rookie from stealing his job.
“Whenever you have somebody (drafted) at your position, for a minute you feel like, what’s going on?” said Pressey, who will compete in Orlando for the second straight year. “But in my eyes, it’s competition. The more you compete, the more the team gets better and really gets after it. Every year, somebody’s going to come in at your position or somebody else’s position, so you’ve got to keep working, keep trying to get better and hopefully the best comes of it.”
Although most Celtics players have only had limited up-close looks at Smart so far — he worked out for the team twice and Tuesday’s session was mostly positional drill work — it did not take long for him to make an impression.
“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’s first objective is to get acclimated to the pro game and coach Brad Stevens’ system under summer league coach Jay Larranaga. When it was suggested this summer as sort of like Smart going to “basketball class,” he disagreed, joking, “it’s not as boring as going to class.”
His jump shot was under a microscope both years at Oklahoma State and continues to be a focal point. He was clearly more comfortable from the shorter corners in his shooting contest with Pressey. When Smart takes his shots, though, they tend to go in, which is why he and the Celtics are focused more on shoring up Smart’s shot selection than tinkering with his mechanics.
One thing that has shone through early on is Smart’s accountability. He rejects implications that his perceived flaws might be external, such as a weaker supporting cast in college negatively affecting his field goal percentage. “Sometimes,” he admitted, “I just forced up a lot of shots.” He recognizes his flaws and is working to improve them, rather than blaming holes in his game on other people. Nor does he seem concerned about whether he ends up playing point guard or off the ball beside Rajon Rondo.
“Wherever they put me is where they put me, and that’s where I’m going to play,” Smart said.
Position doesn’t matter to Smart at this point. After weeks of waiting to see where he would be picked, he is eager to finally be back on the court, where draft projections and combine measurements are irrelevant, and he can just play again.