When the Boston Celtics made the decision last season to let Marcus Smart lead as starting point guard, no one could have guessed just how much he would develop over the course of the season.
By entrusting Smart with being the team’s de facto ground general, Boston beefed up his fighting defense and he rose to the challenge throughout the season, even earning him Defensive Player of the Year as a result.
However, it seems things could have been so different for Smart had he decided to stick with his football career rather than switch to basketball — a move he believes helped several NFL teams this season might have, particularly his beloved Dallas Cowboys.
“You wouldn’t believe me, I actually played football before I played basketball. You wouldn’t believe me, I actually played soccer before I played basketball. I actually played quarterback, wide receiver and safety. I’ve played a few positions, but I could definitely play quarterback… I know my cowboys aren’t doing so well. I had everything I could run fast, I had the legs, I could read defense, and I was tall enough to see over my linesmen. … I had it all.” Smart told Rich Eisen during a recent appearance on The Rich Eisen Show.
Given Smart’s willingness to sacrifice his body and his unparalleled dedication to win at all costs, there’s no doubt the 6-foot-1 guard could have been successful on the grid iron, but thankfully, he chose basketball and it is the Celtics who reap the rewards.
Boston might have been slow out of the gates last season, but by the turn of the year they had figured things out and were rolling through the business end of their regular-season schedule. The Celtics’ hot form continued into the postseason, which saw Boston advance to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.
During an interview with The Athletic’s Jared Weiss on Sept. 14, Smart spoke about what he thinks cost the Celtics an opportunity to fly another banner at TD Garden: a lack of roster depth.
“I think depth was one of the big things that hurt us. They had me, Jayson (Tatum), Jaylen (Brown) and our starters play, scratch, and we did it to ourselves… We got into that situation early on, had to fight back through injuries and stuff like that. Being able to have so many experienced and game-understanding guys like Gallo and Brogdon will definitely help us with that,” said Smart.
It seems the front office had similar thoughts when Brad Stevens moved quickly after the start of the free agency period to take on Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari in hopes these two veterans could help pin the needle for his youngster and combative team to move.
Smart is no stranger to criticism, especially when it comes to his ability to score with a consistent clip from the field. However, Celtics fans around the world have all embraced the Texas native’s patchy goal-scoring form due to his incredible defense, leadership and commitment to the franchise.
Yet Derrick White has yet to earn that kind of cache from the fanbase and is still seen as a net negative when playing on offense – prompting a fresh wave of criticism for the recently acquired guard.
On the latest episode of The Celtics Collective, Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney listed White as the team’s most overrated player heading into the new season.
Hopefully, Smart can sit down with White and share some of his experiences so both guards can continue to thrive under Ime Udoka and help Boston continue to fight for a championship in seasons to come.