The former Celtics fan-favorite has become a leader on and off the court while averaging 5.4 assists, 2.1 steals, and 13.4 points per game, but the absence of two-time All-Star Ja Morant has stymied the Grizzlies offense.
Morant’s suspension will be lifted in mid-December and Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins elaborated on Smart’s role upon Morant’s return.
“He’s going to have a substantial impact. We made a big commitment this summer to bring him here, from the basketball qualities to the inner personal qualities,” Jenkins told reporters following Memphis’s second win of the season on Sunday. “We always talk about having competitors on the team, and he’s done that at the highest level with the sacrifice, the trust that it takes, being able to push each other in both directions.”
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Jenkins added: “To push others and take pushback yourself, to continue to get the best out of yourself. When we obviously get fully whole, whatever that’s gonna look like, and the course of the season rolls on, I’m gonna have a lot of faith that he’s going to bring a lot of positives to our group, not just on the court but off the court, and I will keep challenging him to do that and find his way of doing it because he has to do it organically. Hopefully he continues to push us to find that next level that the Grizzlies are capable of.”
Sounds like Smart has secured his spot with his new team. He made his debut for Memphis in October following the blockbuster three-team trade with Boston and Washington that saw the 29-year-old guard sporting a new jersey for the first time since entering the NBA in 2014.
Featured image via Jessica Alcheh/USA TODAY Sports Images