BOSTON — Marcus Smart spent nine seasons with the Celtics, undergoing a handful of playoff battles, including one trip to the NBA Finals, before being traded this past offseason to the Grizzlies.

Now a part of a young and struggling Memphis team — seated in 13th place in the Western Conference at 18-31 — Smart is back in Boston, for the first time since the trade. And while a right finger injury will keep Smart sidelined throughout Sunday night’s Celtics-Grizzlies matchup, the 29-year-old still has plenty on his mind when looking back at the near-decade-long tenure spent in Boston.

Smart was selected sixth overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, joining a then-rebuilding Celtics team looking to move past the “Big Three” chapter that raised Banner 17 in 2008. While far from easy, Smart’s time with the C’s was nothing but memorable — a sentiment shared between both fans and Smart.

“The way that Boston took me in. We all know that playing in this city isn’t the easiest,” Smart said pregame. “There’s plenty of times where they let us know about it, especially me. Everything is always great here and I speak for everybody — opposing teams and guys who have played here — that there’s nothing like playing in this place and playing in this city, and for these fans. They allowed me to grow. They allowed me to see a different side of myself.”

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Smart didn’t play the role of a traditional point guard but did demonstrate the pride and core values of a traditional Celtics great.

Not once could Smart’s work ethic or in-game effort be questioned. That’s what made the 2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year such a fan favorite, making the news of Smart’s trade a jaw-dropper for fans. Smart never reached a superstar status, however, the early-game dives and never give up mentality made him seem like an untouchable asset that Boston couldn’t part ways with. Presumably, Smart was a must-have ingredient for the recipe for raising Banner 18, but the organization had other plans.

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Smart, of course, was traded for current Celtics starting center Kristaps Porzingis in a three-way trade with the Grizzlies and Wizards. He, along with Robert Williams III, Malcolm Brogdon and Grant Williams, were among the most notable in a handful of departures of offseason swaps made by the Celtics.

The reality of walking into TD Garden as a visiting member rather than a Celtic made for a “unique” experience that Smart’s going to have to get used to for years down the line.

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“(The away locker room is) smaller,” Smart joked. “It’s different, we all know. But it’s unique. I was able, for nine years, to sit in that locker room and experience the home crowd. And I always had to hear about opposing teams coming in here and hearing the difference and the way they feel. The uniqueness of being able to be on that side now, to understand what kind of power playing at the Garden really has.”

As hard as settling in and calling Memphis home is for Smart, he didn’t walk into a throw-away situation with the Grizzlies. Yet, injuries, including a season-ender to star guard Ja Morant, have hampered Memphis and its ability to climb back up the West standings.

Nevertheless, still in recovery, Smart will get a chance to fully get closure by saying goodbye while also being celebrated with a video tribute and honor as Boston’s “Hero Among Us.”

“I know it’s gonna be emotional for Marcus,” Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Obviously for the community, the fans. He poured his heart and soul into Boston for nine years. I can only imagine the ovation when they have the video tribute.”

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Smart played 581 total career games in a Celtics uniform.

Featured image via Allan Henry/USA TODAY Sports Images