Where Kyrie Irving leads, the Boston Celtics don’t necessarily follow.
Former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins promoted this idea Thursday when he claimed to the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy that Marcus Smart is the true leader in the team’s locker room. Many believe the Celtics dance to Irving’s tune, but Perkins said Smart’s intensity is the strongest force in the camp.
“Marcus Smart is the one who, it seems to me, looks like the leader on that team,” Perkins said. “He sets a defensive tone, plays hard, and he’s not only an emotional leader — he does it by example. It’s hard to come back from energy and get going again, but he’s done it now in the playoffs twice before anyone thought he would be ready.”
Irving is the subject of intense criticism and speculation, following the Celtics’ disappointing second-round exit from the NBA playoffs. Perkins is among those who criticized Irving forcefully during and after the Celtics’ loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Smart, who missed four of five games in that series due to an oblique injury, dismissed accusations Irving negatively affected Boston’s chemistry this season, calling the claims “Bulls–t.”
Most expect Irving to opt out of his contract this summer and become a free agent, ending his Celtics career after just two seasons.
Having signed a four-year, $52 million contract last July, Smart probably will be around for the foreseeable future, and that’s just fine with Perkins.
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