BOSTON (CBS) — It doesn’t matter who Marcus Smart is playing against. Whether you’re an NBA All-Star or a nine-year-old kid, he’s going to go all-out on the basketball floor and take no prisoners along the way.
Celtics fans know this extremely well, and so does the NBA, awarding Smart with this year’s “Hustle Award” on Monday night. On Tuesday, a group of local kids got some first-hand experience of Smart’s tenacity at his annual summer basketball camp at Brandeis University in Waltham. If anyone can teach the youth of American how to pick up a Tommy Point or two, it’s Marcus Smart.
One lucky — or unlucky — participant played a little one-on-one with Smart, and received an up-close look at why Smart was named to the NBA’s All Defensive First Team this season. As the kid drove to the basket, Smart swatted the kid’s layup attempt away with the same fury you’d usually see in a Game 7:
The kid had the last laugh, however, sinking a three over Smart to win the match. Throughout the day, it was difficult to see who was having a better time: Smart or his students. But it’s clear that everyone walked away a winner.
“This is my fifth annual, and man is it one of the ones for the books,” Smart told WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche after Tuesday’s camp (interview featured above). “I think this is the most [campers] we’ve had here since we started the camps, and they keep growing. As you can see, all these big smiles and eyes keep getting bigger and bigger.”
While it’s been a difficult offseason for his Celtics, Smart was all similes on Tuesday.
“I love the enthusiasm they bring to this camp. We teach them everything and they teach us a little bit of something, how to not take life so serious and enjoy life. It takes you back to when you were a kid and everything was so sweet and special,” he said. “We’re teaching them basketball and life goals, and some to use outside of basketball or sports to build confidence and communication skills with others.”
As for the tumultuous summer that has surrounded his employer, Smart was pretty open about the future of the Celtics. While Kyrie Irving and Al Horford haven’t officially left town via free agency just yet, Smart says he has nothing but love for his soon-to-be former teammates.
“They have every right to do what they feel is best for not only them but their family and their careers. Regardless if those guys stay or leave, I have nothing but love for them,” said Smart. “Always will. I wish them the best of luck in whatever they do.”
Smart said he’s checked in on Kyrie a few times, but they haven’t talked about basketball. So if you were hoping for some news on where Irving will sign this offseason, you’ll have to dive into one of the many rumor mills out there.
Smart said his focus is on what he can do to make the Celtics a better team next season. With Irving and Horford likely gone, he knows that he’ll be expected to do a lot more both on the floor and in the locker room. As the longest tenured member of the team, it’s a role he is excited and eager to fill.
“I see my role as bigger than ever now. Just because, once again, being that longest-tenured Celtic, going into my sixth season and really understanding Brad Stevens and this organization, and the system that he likes to run, that’s who I am,” he said. “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.
“I’m excited. We’re excited. As competitors, you have a season like we did last year and it leaves a funny taste in your mouth,” Smart continued. “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.”
As for the perceived notion that no one wants to play in Boston, Smart would have none of that.
“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. You name me another city that’s got four teams in different categories like that that’s all known for winning championships,” said Smart. “It gets no better than that. So 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 play for a championship.”