Smart vows a big­ger lead­er­ship role for the Celtics

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By Mark Mur­phy Bos­ton Herald

Mar­cus Smart ad­mit­tedly didn’t see it com­ing — the depth of change that is in the process of hit­ting his team.

The Celtics guard is now de­com­press­ing in his own way, as he puts it, by run­ning his an­nual bas­ket­ball camp at Bran­deis Univer­sity. That means mix­ing with the kids and, be­fit­ting the NBA hustle award he won Mon­day night dur­ing the league awards show, at one point putting some of the campers through a char­ge­tak­ing drill this week.

But the out­side world isn’t so much knock­ing as it is blow­ing the door down, and with Kyrie Irv­ing and Al Hor­ford likely de­parted, Smart has fig­ured out what this un­ex­pected re­build means for him.

“I see my role as big­ger than ever now. Just be­cause once again, be­ing that long­est-tenured Celtic, go­ing into my sixth sea

son and re­ally un­der­stand­ing Brad and this or­ga­ni­za­tion, and the sys­tem that he likes to run, and just, that’s who I am. And I’ve got to be that times 10 now, be­cause we are go­ing through some things. We did have a bad year. We’ve just got to keep ev­ery­body on the same track.”

The Celtics haven’t had a cap­tain since Ra­jon Rondo suc­ceeded Paul Pierce, but Smart cer­tainly seems to be mak­ing that case for him­self now. He bris­tled yesterday at the sug­ges­tion — fu­eled by Irv­ing’s im­pend­ing flight — that for NBA play­ers, Bos­ton has re­turned to be­ing an un­de­sir­able lo­ca­tion.

“I think it kind of speaks for it­self. We’ve got the Pa­tri­ots, we’ve got the Bru­ins, we’ve got the Red Sox, we’ve got the Celtics,” he said. “You name me another city that’s got four teams in dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories like that that’s all known for win­ning cham­pi­onships. It gets no bet­ter than that. I don’t know who is say­ing that, or why they’re say­ing it, who knows. But for me, be­ing here and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it for my­self, Bos­ton is def­i­nitely a place you want to be, espe­cially if you’re try­ing to com­pete for a cham­pi­onship.”

Ex­cept that the Celtics ap­pear due for a cul­tural re­set af­ter all of last sea­son’s chem­istry is­sues. As Smart ad­mits, com­mu­ni­ca­tion got worse over the course of the sea­son.

“Even in the reg­u­lar sea­son, it wasn’t a dis­con­nect. It was just a lot of peo­ple kind of got in and — it was like a tele­phone game. You tell one per­son this and by the time it gets back to you, the whole nar­ra­tive had changed,” he said. “That’s kind of how it goes. Like I said, you can only con­trol what you can con­trol. You fo­cus on what you can fo­cus on. As a player, you fo­cus on get­ting into the gym, get­ting your­self bet­ter and you let the front of­fice han­dle the front of­fice stuff and you do what it is you need to do for the team.

“Hey, the thing is, the Rap­tors just won the cham­pi­onship, right? But they’ve got to start back over from the be­gin­ning just like we do,” he said. “So we all start back over at the start­ing line, we all start at zero, and we all get a chance to do it. So ev­ery­body’s start­ing over, re­gard­less if they have the same team or not, they’ve all got to start from the be­gin­ning. That’s how we take it. We take it as we come in, and we have an op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing spe­cial, and we get another chance to do it.”

The Celtics, of course, are at a ground zero start­ing po­si­tion com­pared to the NBA champs. Though he ad­mit­tedly was caught off guard by the Irv­ing and Hor­ford re­ports, Smart knew that some form of change was com­ing.

“I ex­pected things to change. Sig­nif­i­cantly or in­signif­i­cantly wasn’t re­ally a big thing. I wasn’t ex­pect­ing as big or as lit­tle, I just knew some­thing was go­ing to change,” he said. “I think ev­ery­one kind of knew that. Now, what that is, we have no clue. Like I said, you can’t re­ally fo­cus on that. You have to let the guys whose jobs it is to fo­cus on that. You fo­cus on what you can.

“I’m ex­cited. We’re ex­cited,” he said. “As com­peti­tors, you have a sea­son like we did last year and it leaves a funny taste in your mouth. We use that as our mo­ti­va­tion and to keep go­ing. We’re very ex­cited. What­ever team or what­ever peo­ple or who­ever is on the board or who­ever is on this ros­ter with us, we’re ex­cited to have them to go out there and fight.”

Though Smart said he has been in touch with Irv­ing, their con­ver­sa­tions have veered clear of bas­ket­ball. He said he bears no ill will against ei­ther of his soon-to-be-for­mer team­mates.

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