The Boston Celtics have had their fair share of struggles to start the season, and a lot is riding on what they’ll look like after Kemba Walker’s return.
The veteran point guard is missing time as he strengthens his knee to play deep into the postseason. Marcus Smart has assumed the starting duties during his absence.
In seven games so far this season, Smart has embraced this role.
“He’s been running the team, you know, starting at point making sure we’re in our spots and we’ve been organized. He’s been doing a really good job,” Jayson Tatum told reporters Sunday after the Celtics 122-120 win over the Pistons.
Against Detroit, Smart recorded a double-double with to a 17-point, 10-assist performance. The 26-year-old is averaging 11.8 points and 6.2 assists per game so far this year.
“I think he’s really tried these seven games,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s our only guy above five assists on our team. So he’s trying to get us organized, he’s trying to get us in a place where everyone can be successful. He directed, he knew time and score at the end when we were talking in the huddle and when we got the ball to Jayson to shoot it only with enough time that they would have to heave it.”
Stevens was referring to the Celtics final possession of the game Sunday, where Smart assisted Tatum for the game-winning points. Though all game and all season, the guard has shown some solid shot selection, passing up good shots for himself to set up his teammates for great ones.
“I think he’s just one of those guys right? No one is going to say anything if he drives in there and makes it,” Stevens added. “He’s bailed us out on so many occasions throughout the years that I appreciate how much he’s trying to do the right thing on every possession.”
The appreciation is felt from his teammates, too.
“Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of this team,” Jaylen Brown said. “His energy and his poise has been great for us. They asked him to step up and play the point guard position and he’s matched that. He got me easy baskets. He got Jayson easy baskets. He got himself easy baskets as well. So I’m proud to see Marcus Smart grow and the responsibility that he’s gotten he’s handled it.”
Stevens said ahead of this season that they would be relying on the longest-tenured Celtic as a playmaker while they’re shorthanded. So far, so good.
?If I?m open, I?m shooting,” Smart said. “If the guy?s closing out, I?ve gotta be able to do what I?ve been doing my whole career and that?s getting to the rim, playmaking for not just myself but for others.”