In this new, modernized landscape of the NBA, versatility is power.
Seven-foot centers are shooting at a revolutionary clip from beyond the arc. Point guards are actually averaging triple-doubles, and the term “positionless basketball” might be more relevant now than ever before.
Marcus Smart probably isn’t the first name that pops into your head when you think about a do-it-all type of player. It’s also true that the majority of teams probably don’t game plan around a nervousness that he could drop 50 points on any given night.
However. Smart brings something very unique, yet strangely familiar to this new era of Celtics basketball. His tough, blue-collar style resonates perfectly with Boston fans. In a city where historical confidence and pride definitely isn’t lacking, it pays to be an old soul.
That’s exactly what Marcus Smart is.
The mentality with which Smart approaches the game can be best described with a reference from Stephen King’s coming of age novel, The Body.
It is the key phrase from Milo Pressman’s character, a grumpy old junkyard owner—who is never without his notoriously ferocious dog, Chopper—that sends chills down the spines of his unsuspecting victims:
It’s the same feeling that offensive players get when they cross half court and Smart is patiently waiting to pounce. Like Chopper, Marcus Smart has shown a concise ability to turn his aggression on and off like a switch: On one end of the floor, he’s an intelligent offensive presence, an effective playmaker and versatile option in seemingly any lineup that Brad Stevens concocts in his coaching cauldron. On the other, a cold, heartless killer.
It’s the attack-dog mentality that defines Smart as a player. A fearless kill-or-be-killed view of the world was developed at a very young age, as he grew up the youngest of four brothers. In an interview with Bill Doyle of SouthCoastToday, Smart said:
“They all played basketball, football and everything like that. So growing up in my household, you got to fight for your own. If you wanted something, you had to speak up or you wouldn’t get it.”
To this day, he carries himself in much the same way. In an ultra-competitive league like the NBA, adaptability is the key to survival. For Smart, that means guarding a 6’1” point guard on one possession, and covering a 6’9” power forward on the next. The thing that’s becoming more and more apparent is his love of the challenge.
The hunt, the chase, and the kill.
Who the defensive assignment happens to be on each possession has become somewhat irrelevant. Smart is out for blood, plain and simple.
The hard-nosed “fuck you” approach to basketball is sown into the very fibre of Celtics uniforms. Looking back at the likes of Bird, Parish, Havlicek and even Pierce and Garnett, they have a lot in common. Boston players are a special breed. They learn and adapt to this way of life. The relentless passion of the fans becomes almost a source of power in the heat of battle. They want to win for the city, for the crowd, and for the storied history of the franchise.
Smart is quickly becoming one of those players. He has the confidence to take the fate of the game into his own hands—just ask the Toronto Raptors. He’ll glue himself to the opposing team’s best closer. He’ll win some, and he’ll lose some. But he’ll always go down fighting.
Smart is instinctively protective, obedient and loyal. He has a job to do and a role to play just like everyone else. The difference here, however, is that Smart won’t let anything—or anyone—get in his way.