Marcus Smart sees Celtics rookies impacting Boston's defense

Nick Friar
October 18, 2019 - 9:31 am
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By no means is it a revelation to point out Marcus Smart is the best defender on the Celtics. He now has the hardware to prove it, too.

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Among the things which separate him from other players on that end of the floor is his willingness to get a stop by any means necessary. This characteristic is also a part of why his teammates see him as the heart and soul of the Celtics.

Given the respect his teammates have for him and what he’s able to do on defense, it would seem fair to label Smart as something of a general on that end of the floor. An extension of Brad Stevens in some sense.

Smart doesn’t see it that way. Because he doesn’t think defense works like that.

“I think everybody, one through five, one through 15, has the ability to be that leader on the court,” Smart told WEEI.com “It takes five guys. It takes all five to play defense. It’s not just particularly one guy who’s the one that calls the shots. We’re all out there. (If) we see something, we discuss it as a team.”

Previously, Al Horford had a major role on the defensive end. So did Aron Baynes. But they don’t wear green anymore — which means, now even more than last year, the Celtics can’t afford to work as five individuals on defense. 

With the matchup against Horford’s Sixers upcoming, Smart likes where the defense stands.

“We had a really good preseason. We liked everything that we were seeing,” he said. “Obviously, there are some things we’d like to clean up, get better at, touch up and tighten up. But for the most part, these young guys are really good, they pick up (things) really quickly. When you got guys like that, it’s easy to go out there and put a play together, put a scheme together.”

But the younger Celtics aren’t thriving necessarily because they’re defensive wizards or more physically gifted than everyone else. They’re coachable. 

“You know that they’re going to go out there and give the effort and also know exactly where they’re supposed to be,” Smart said. “And if they don’t, they’re going to ask the questions that they need to be asking.”

The young guys’ ability to learn and adjust on the fly has played a big role in the defense’s development in the preseason. With crucial pieces leaving and even more new faces coming in, the Celtics needed everyone working to get on the same page from the jump.

“For most teams, they got a lot of guys back, not as many new guys. So they can get right into whatever they need to get into,” Smart said. “For us, we need to do a little more teaching. So for those guys to be able to pick up that quickly, and then allow us to move on, helps us a lot.”

For a guy who isn’t looking to give himself a leadership label, Smart has a fairly detailed understanding of everything. Might have something to do with the fact leaders don’t actually talk about leadership. They’re more focused on the actual tasks at hand.