Danny Ainge has long been a fan of Marcus Smart, so it should come as no surprise that the Boston Celtics president of basketball operations would like to find a way to keep the hard-nosed guard in green this offseason.
“We need Marcus. Marcus is a good player,” Ainge said Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich.” “He provides a lot of energy for our team and I hope that we can work something out going forward.”
Ainge also is realistic, though. And while he’ll be the first to acknowledge Smart’s importance to the Celtics over the last four seasons, he understands the NBA landscape and what it takes to build a contender while managing payroll.
Smart, who’s set to become a restricted free agent this summer, said after the Celtics’ Game 7 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last week that he believes he’s worth more than $12 to $14 million annually. That ultimately might be too rich for Boston’s blood, in which case the C’s will need to focus on replacing Smarts’s heart, grit and defensive excellence.
“I think that everybody is replaceable,” Ainge said Thursday. “If there was ever a situation with a team where guys would know that, it would be this team that just went through what we went through this year. We’re all replaceable, and we’ll be able to move on and move forward without any players. Nobody is irreplaceable, but Marcus certainly is a player that has been big for us over the last few years.”
The Celtics can make a qualifying offer worth about $6.1 million to Smart. They also can match any free agent offer that is made by another team. It’ll be interesting to see how the market shakes out for his services, seeing as much of his impact is difficult to quantify. But Ainge had no problem with Smart pumping up his own value immediately after Boston was eliminated from the NBA playoffs.
“I wouldn’t, but a lot of players do, so it’s his prerogative,” Ainge said. “Just simply he’s got a million cameras in front of him, a bunch of mics. It’s not like he’s coming out and saying, ‘Hey, I need this.’ Someone was asking that question and was persisting on like, ‘Well, what do you think you’re worth?’ And he just answered it in his honest opinion.”
Smart, who was selected sixth overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, has given a lot to the Celtics since entering the league. Maybe his next contribution will be a hometown discount.