BOSTON (CBS) — Heading into restricted free agency, Marcus Smart knew he was in for an interesting summer.
In the moments after the Celtics’ 2017-18 season came to an end with a disappointing Game 7 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals, Smart let everyone know that he believed he was worth $14-$15 million per season. But when free agency got underway and teams stayed away, with the Celtics holding a $6.1 million qualifying offer and the ability to match any offer sheet Smart received in their back pocket, things got a little frustrating for the dynamic defensive guard.
There were times when he didn’t know where he would end up, but even through those tough times, Smart said he still enjoyed the process. In the end, he’s right where he wanted to be, agreeing to a four-year deal reportedly worth $52 million with the Celtics on Thursday. He’s ecstatic to be back with such a storied franchise, and eager to play a big role in their bright future.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Smart told reporters on a conference call Friday afternoon. “At the same time I knew that I was going to be set no matter what. I knew I would be on a team and I’m happy it’s Boston. I feel like I’m part of the Boston community, that Boston is second home to me.”
There were times that Smart considered taking that qualifying offer, which would have made him an unrestricted free agent after next season. But he’s happy to be locked up for the next four seasons, and has some more motivation heading into next year.
“It’s a business, so things aren’t perfect and that’s why you call it negotiating. You come together and finally agree on something,” he said. “We both agreed that Boston loves me and I love Boston. Boston wanted me to be here and I wanted to be here.”
Smart admitted that he wasn’t 100 percent focused on his free agency, and monitored the situation from home in Texas so he could be with his mother. Camellia Smart has been battling bone marrow cancer, and being with her was more important to Smart than the daily rumors that circulated throughout the offseason. He said signing his deal with the Celtics was a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy period for his family, and though her battle is far from over, his mother is stable and hanging in there.
Now that the business side of things are done, Smart is looking forward to rejoining the Celtics in a few months for what should be the start of another great season. The longest-tenured member of the team, he’s happy that many consider him one of the leaders, a role he’ll embrace over the next four years. He’s also honored that the Celtics see him as their defensive stopper, and continues to work hard on his craft this summer.
As for what he is working on, Smart said he never focuses on just one aspect during the offseason.
“The uniqueness of me is that I don’t do anything perfectly or great. I do a little bit of everything,” he said, which is sure to draw a chuckle or two from his doubters. “If I can get better a little bit each year then I did my job.”
With a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward expected to return to a Celtics squad that got one win away from the NBA Finals, Smart is eager to see how good this year’s Celtics team can be.
“As a competitor, you always want to win championships and want to put yourself in the best place to do that. The Celtics right now are one of those teams where we have a great shot to do that,” said Smart. “It’s a great organization, a great city. And it fits me — my type of style, who I am. I’m glad to be here.”