BOSTON (CBS) — If you struggle to find the beauty of Marcus Smart’s game, look no further than the furious comeback win by the Celtics over the Bucks on Wednesday night. Smart was everywhere in the victory, knocking down shots on offense while playing some stellar defense on reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Smart helped the Celtics erase a 19-point deficit with 19 points and six assists, draining five trees. He also helped Boston hold Antetokounmpo to just 22 points, despite giving up eight inches and 25 pounds on the Milwaukee big man.
Smart loves to body up with the best bigs in the league, whether it’s Giannis, Joel Embiid or Kristaps Porzingis. And given his bulldog style, Smart usually gets under their skin, throwing them off their game. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again from the longest tenured player on Boston’s roster.
Smart’s performance on Wednesday night had Celtics president of basketball ops. Danny Ainge singing some high praise of Smart on Thursday morning, calling the guard the “heart and soul” of the Boston Celtics.
“Marcus is a terrific player. He’s out there to guard everybody; he always has and he always will. That’s his nature,” Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich. “He loves that challenge of guarding the stars of the other team and trying to get inside their head. That’s why he is the heart and soul of the team.
“He’d be picked No. 1 in a scrimmage by all his teammates because they don’t want to play against him,” Ainge added.
But that doesn’t mean Smart will become the C’s next team captain. The Celtics haven’t had one of those since 2014, when Brad Stevens gave the honor to Rajon Rondo, who was later traded. Ainge said he’ll leave the captaincy decision up to Stevens, but he doesn’t think anyone needs to be given the title on a team full of leaders.
“I really do believe it’s an overrated thing,” said Ainge. “Marcus is a leader of our team. Kemba [Walker] is a leader, Gordon [Hayward] is a leader, Jaylen [Brown] and Jayson [Tatum] are growing daily and yearly into leaders. I’m not sure the captain title needs to be given. Everybody knows who the leaders are and they just happen. They don’t need to be forced on by a title.”
While we shouldn’t expect a “C” to grace Smart’s jersey anytime soon, he’ll continue to lead the team with his play. And we can certainly expect him to body up — and pester the heck out of — some of the NBA’s biggest and brightest players along the way.