Tomase: Marcus Smart trying to pressure Celtics into offer, but C's hold all leverage

John Tomase
July 06, 2018 - 12:12 am

USA Today Sports


One man's "hurt and disgusted" is another's negotiating ploy. I think I know where Marcus Smart falls on that spectrum.

The Boston Herald's respected Celtics writer, Mark Murphy, delivered some pointed words from a source close to Smart on Thursday night, noting that the sparkplug is the aforementioned three-word quotation because the Celtics haven't made him a contract offer.

Smart is a restricted free agent and the Celtics can match any offer he receives. Right now all they've done is extend him a $6.1 million qualifying offer that maintains their matching rights. He could conceivably play the 2018-19 season on that deal and then enter unrestricted free agency next summer, when more teams project to have more money to spend.

The Herald's source notes that Smart expected better treatment from Celtics boss Danny Ainge.

"He would have thought there would have been some kind of three- to four-year deal from them to show they're interested," the source said. "But the qualifying offer is the only one he has received, and there's been no talk since free agency opened. He's most disappointed that there has been no reaching out from their end.

"He's just hurt and frustrated that Danny hasn't reached out. That's the most discouraging part of this whole thing. The last contact was a few days before free agency started."

Smart owns little leverage. Because the market is depressed, he's unlikely to receive an offer of $12 million-plus over three or four years to put the pressure on Ainge. The best he might expect is the surprising three-year, $33 million extension that fellow 2014 draftee Dante Exum just received after underachieving through four years with the Jazz. Selected fifth overall, one pick ahead of Smart, Exum remains all potential, virtually none of it realized. Smart owns a much more accomplished body of work, despite his obvious deficiencies in the shot-selection and shot-making departments.

But players in his situation aren't getting paid exorbitantly this summer. They're either settling for lower average annual values (Jerami Grant's 3 years and $27 million from the Thunder) or fewer years (old friend Avery Bradley will earn $25 million over the next 2 years from the Clippers). Outside of Denver's Will Barton (4 years, $54 million), the going rate for players in Smart's range are signing for $9-$11 million annually.

All he can do is publicly pressure Ainge and hope that fans or ownership apply some heat. Smart's a heart-and-soul kind of player and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens clearly loves him. Why else would he see so many crunch time minutes? He's a winning player, and depending on his contract terms, he could be a useful one facilitating a trade down the road, since NBA deals require matching salaries.

So color me unmoved by the talk of disgust and loyalty and abandonment. The Celtics are letting Smart set his market, it isn't materializing, and both sides know it. That qualifying offer isn't going anywhere and neither are the C's.

In the meantime, Smart has nothing to lose by trying to sway public sentiment in his direction. The worst that happens is he plays his guts out on the qualifying offer and then hits the market with a lot more leverage next summer.

More Celtics news:

'It was chaos:' Looking back at wild July 4 that brought Gordon Hayward to Boston, a year later.

Watch Jaylen Brown destroy some overmatched amateurs in Atlanta.


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