WALTHAM, Mass. – Brad Stevens made it a point during Sunday afternoon’s film session to single out a few of Marcus Smart’s hustle plays from Friday’s preseason win in Philadelphia.
Smart’s teammates watched replays of him diving on the floor for loose balls, ripping the rock out of the hands of a helpless opponent, and doing all of the dirty work that makes an impact on winning.
Seeing such plays were nothing new for guys like Al Horford, Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown, who all witnessed those efforts from Smart on a nightly basis last season. For everyone else, it was something new, exciting and motivational.
Stevens turned to the impressed Celtics newcomers and told them, “Now you guys know why we all love Marcus. He does things that other guys just don’t do.”
For example, there was a play near the end of the third quarter when 76ers big man Richaun Holmes grabbed a defensive rebound, but he did not even have the opportunity to pass the ball or put it on the floor because Smart immediately lunged for it. Holmes attempted to maintain possession, but Smart remained latched onto the rock like a cobra that had just captured its dinner.
Smart eventually wrestled the ball out of Holmes’ grip and then dove on top of it as it bounced toward the free throw line. JJ Reddick attempted to pounce on the loose ball as well, but Smart slithered away and pushed it off to Terry Rozier, who then dished the rock to Guercshon Yabusele for an alley-oop layup that gave Boston an 85-78 lead.
Like Stevens said, that’s the type of play that “other guys just don’t do;” especially not during a preseason game.
That may soon change, because Smart’s otherworldly effort is already rubbing off on his new teammates.
“When guys see Marcus out there diving on the floor and putting his body on the line, everyone wants to do it and everyone takes that step forward,” said big man Aron Baynes, who should see plenty of minutes alongside Smart while playing with Boston’s second unit. “Marcus is a special defender, and he’s showing that in the first few games. It’s going to be fun playing with him.”
It certainly wasn’t fun playing against him. Gordon Hayward is now thankful to have Smart on his side so that he no longer will have to deal with his snake-like reflexes on the opposing side of the ball.
With Sunday’s film session still fresh in his mind, Hayward had all sorts of positive adjectives to describe Smart, including “scrapper,” “competitor,” and “bulldog.”
“He’s always going to make the energy plays and the hustle plays,” said the All-Star wing. “In the last game when he dove on the ball, and got the ball, and we got a layup, those are game-changing plays. Those really give momentum to your team, and he’s great to have on the team.”
As someone who has played alongside Smart for two seasons, Rozier knows how much of an impact the feisty combo guard can have on his teammates. Rozier also came into this league with the reputation of being a scrapper, and being out on the court with Smart makes him want to hustle even more.
“He makes everyone around him play as hard as he does,” said Rozier. “It’s just something you appreciate.”
Boston’s newcomers are just beginning to appreciate how important of an asset Smart is. They’re seeing his willingness to put his body on the line and his drive to never let up while he’s on the floor.
Stevens is placing strong emphasis on his efforts in the film room for a reason. It’s because he wants Smart’s mindset to rub off on Boston’s newcomers. And, so far, it appears that it is.