By Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — There are a lot of “F words” that can be used to describe the 2020-21 Celtics season. “Fun” would not be one of them.

Celtics guard Marcus Smart made that pretty clear when chatting with reporters about the team’s season-long struggles on Friday.

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“On the court, we have to play with that passion. We have to go out there and we have to have fun again. We’re not having fun, we’re not playing like we are having fun, we’re not playing with that energy and that same fire,” Smart said after Boston’s morning shootaround ahead of Friday night’s matchup with the Sacramento Kings.

Boston currently sits at 20-20 on the season, losers of three of their four games since the All-Star break. It’s taken away all the good mojo that the team had built up with a four-game win streak ahead of the break.

The Celtics now find themselves as part of a logjam at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and are currently flirting with a spot in the NBA’s new play-in round of the postseason. It’s a long ways away from preseason expectations that the C’s would once again be among the East’s top four teams.

And given the way the team has played on the court for much of the season, it’s going to take a lot to turn things around. Smart said that it all has to start from within.

“We have to pick it up and continue to try to help one another. No one said this was going to be easy,” said Smart. “When you try to do something great, it’s not easy.”

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It has been a pretty trying season for the C’s, with injuries keeping Boston’s core group of players from playing extended minutes with each other. Adding in everything that goes with playing during a pandemic has created an extremely difficult season for everyone. Smart said that players have a lot going on personally away from the court, and that is following them to work.

But Smart adds that the Celtics cannot allow everything from the outside to become an excuse for their inconsistent play when games tip off.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time in our lives and our careers. I understand we’ve had a lot of guys out, but we’ve had a lot of guys here that are capable of doing great things and helping this team win,” he said. “For us, we have to refocus our energy. A lot of things have happened in our lives personally and individually where it’s hard to come here and give that energy to something else.

“We have to find a way to pick each other up when that energy is down from that standpoint, because it shows,” Smart continued. “It’s not going to be easy. Our window is definitely closing. But if anyone can do it it’s this group of guys. We’re under a lot of fire as a team, but this isn’t the first time this team has been under fire. We have to find something that clicks. It might take a game or two, but once we do it, it will be okay.”

Smart and the Celtics better hope the turnaround happens soon, with just 32 games left in the season and less than a week left until the NBA’s trade deadline. He said it’s tough to gauge what the team is capable of because of the rash of injuries and COVID-related absences, but is adamant that the turnaround has to happen soon, whether reinforcements arrive via trade or not.

The pressure is mounting, and the Celtics are feeling it.

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“Pressure from ourselves, pressure from the outside, pressure from the ones most loyal to us. We understand that we’re not playing up to the pedestal we’ve been put on and that we have accepted,” said Smart. “We have to look ourselves in the mirror. At the end of the night we still have that pressure. It comes with the territory. There’s pressure each and every day, we just need to find a way.” Staff