Marcus Smart’s Imprint Remains With the Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics need to focus on getting back to their winning ways at home. After beginning the season with a record-setting 20 straight wins at TD Garden, the Celtics have dropped three of their last five games in Boston. Their last home loss was a debacle as the Celtics fell to the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers in embarrassing fashion, losing 114-105 on Thursday, February 1.

Boston gets back into action on Sunday when it hosts the Memphis Grizzlies. Much of the focus, however, will be on the return of Marcus Smart, the veteran point guard who spent the first nine years of his NBA career as a fan favorite with the Celtics. Although Smart won’t be in action (injured finger), he’ll draw plenty of attention from both the players and the fans.

Marcus Smart Started Boston’s Defensive Foundation, Says Joe Mazzulla

The Celtics selected Smart in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. He played nine seasons in Boston and was the heart and soul of the team with his defense-first mindset and his all-out effort on the court.

Smart returns to TD Garden for the first time as an opponent on Sunday, February 4, but he won’t be in action after injuring his right ring finger in a victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, January 9.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said Smart is the one who set Boston’s foundation for defense during his time here. Smart was Defensive Player of the Year for the 2021-22 season, a rare feat for a guard. His defensive mindset has remained with the Celtics.

“I think he’s one of the guys that started our defensive foundation before I got here because of his ability to compete at a high level, to defend at a high level and execute different coverages,” Mazzulla told reporters after Saturday’s practice.

“For him to win Defensive Player of the Year, he was the first guard since Gary Payton, it’s always been a big to do it. So, when you see a guard have an impact on the game at so many levels the way he did, I think that’s kind of what started it.”

Mazzulla Said Smart Is Irreplaceable

The Celtics moved Smart in a deal that brought back center Kristaps Porzingis. The deal has worked out well for Boston, which owns the best record in the NBA at 37-12. Mazzulla said you can’t replace a guy like Smart, but you can learn from him.

Mazzulla said he has other players in the lineup, including Derrick White and Jrue Holiday, who have been known to make Smart-like plays.

“You don’t replace him. It just looks different,” Mazzulla said. “(Jayson) Tatum dove on the floor for a loose ball. Derrick’s making winning plays and the back tips in transition. Jrue’s constant intensity and focusing on everyone’s strengths and what they’re able to do. Jaylen (Brown)’s individual defense, that’s just as tough as what another player does. It just looks different.”

Expect the warmest of welcomes for Smart on Sunday. Celtics fans never forget those who went all-out in Boston.

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