Marcus Smart is finally getting some sleep. It’s been nearly three months since he and the Celtics lost the NBA Finals, but time can only heal so many wounds.
“I catch myself sleeping sometimes, after which I get up and the sunshine’s hitting,” Smart told The Athletic. “Then there’s some days that I can’t sleep and I’m on YouTube watching every thing (from the NBA Finals). My girlfriend’s like, ‘Get off, it’s over, let it go.’ I can’t. That’s the great thing about us competitors.”
Already entering his ninth season in Boston, Smart has taken on nearly every role with the franchise, from point guard to point center — but there’s only a lot he can do. That was a lesson the Celtics learned over the course of the yr, once they struggled to jell early on, rode a remarkable wave of connectedness late within the yr, then marched through the Eastern Conference before hitting a wall against the Warriors.
Ime Udoka needed to shore up his rotation to get the Celtics’ season back on course, but the results eventually revealed themselves and it was apparent coming into free agency that the impressive core at the highest of the depth chart needed more help.
“I feel depth was one in every of the large things that hurt us,” Smart said. “You had me, Jayson (Tatum), Jaylen (Brown) and our starters playing, clawing (up the standings) and we did it to ourselves.”
That’s been the common refrain from his teammates as they’ve looked back at what went improper on the very end. When Tatum spoke to The Athletic last month, he said his biggest lesson from running out of gas in June was to start out off on the best foot in October.
Draymond Green and Marcus Smart. (John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
“Yeah, not wait ’til January to be the most effective player. Have a greater start,” Tatum said. “I feel that just comes from ensuring my body feels good from the jump and just dominating night in, night out. That’s what the most effective of the most effective players do.”
Tatum was the first option last yr and it was apparent by the Milwaukee series that every one of those explosive offensive nights were taking their toll. By the point the Celtics reached Game 6 of the finals, Smart was one in every of the few ballhandlers on the team still able to attending to the rim and making a play.
But he’s still feeling the aftereffects of the playoff grind, telling CLNS Media’s Bobby Manning that, while he’s back on the court, his ankle continues to be healing and he isn’t quite 100% yet. So Brad Stevens brought in reinforcements this offseason, trading for Malcolm Brogdon and signing Danilo Gallinari, who tore his ACL earlier this month during FIBA World Cup qualifying.
“We put ourselves in that situation early on, having to fight back through injuries and stuff,” Smart said. “With the ability to have that depth of fellows who’re experienced and understand the sport akin to Gallo and Brogdon definitely will help us with that.”
Perhaps Gallinari might be back in some unspecified time in the future within the playoffs, but a lot of Boston’s championship hopes will rest on Brogdon coming in and giving Smart, Brown and Tatum a break every occasionally. It’s not about letting them take an evening off, but relatively a number of possessions every night.
When Brogdon was watching the Celtics stall within the finals, he saw an ideal place for him to step into the rotation and help with the burden the Smart-Tatum-Brown triumvirate was carrying.
“If I got here in there, I could give them a gentle presence and a relaxed as a ballhandler and facilitator, getting guys like Brown and Tatum easy shots,” Brogdon told The Athletic the day of the trade. “Just slowing the sport down in those moments when we want to get an excellent shot.”
The deeper they got into the playoffs, the greater the necessity for a player who can stay grounded in the attention of the storm. It’s why the Celtics reportedly went after Kevin Durant, offering Jaylen Brown, Derrick White and a draft pick to Brooklyn in line with The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Considering Smart’s name has been the primary name to pop up in Celtics trade talks for years, it was easy for him to tune the rumors out.
“For somebody who’s all the time talked about in trade talks, I didn’t really pay an excessive amount of mind to that. Until it actually happens, I don’t imagine it,” Smart said of the rumors. “We will sit here and say this person said this, but we don’t even know who said it. It’s like a telephone game. By the point it gets back to you, you don’t know what modified and who said what. Until it actually happens, I attempt to pay trade rumors no mind.”
Now the Celtics will return fully loaded, aiming for a smoother regular season and a less treacherous path toward a repeat finals trip. With training camp just a number of weeks away, Smart only has a number of more nights of sleepless remorse before he has no alternative but to maneuver forward.
“I’m glad to have the ability to say we now have the team still together,” Smart said. “We made a run and we left a bit bit on the table. We wish to run it back.”
(Top photo: Cary Edmondson / USA Today)