Marcus Smart heard the talk.
“The injury (was) probably affecting me, I lost a step, all kinds of things, and it is what it is.” Smart said after Boston’s win over Portland. “I know what I can do, my teammates know what I can do, the league knows what I can do, and that’s just extra motivation for me to go out there and prove it.”
Smart has been proving it over and over again as the Celtics season has slowly turned around. Ever since a decidedly bad game against the New Orleans Pelicans (the game that featured that half-court heave off a jump ball), Smart has been at the emotional helm, helping steer the C’s in the right direction.
Sometimes it has been with his signature defensive energy. Sometimes it’s with his passing. Sometimes, it’s just gathering his young teammates and settling them down in moments where things might have unraveled in the past.
“We respect him. We respect everything that he's accomplished and what he brings to the table,” Jayson Tatum said. “When Smart is talking, we're gonna listen because we know it's for the best and everybody respects him.”
While Smart gets the respect of his team, the goal for Smart, and any team, is to respect each other. This Celtics team has always gotten along off the court, but for a long stretch of the season, that didn’t seem to translate onto the court. That’s changed, and it’s no coincidence that it has changed as Smart has been more of a constant in the lineup.
“I think you can see the difference. We’re all holding each other accountable - everybody at both ends of the floor,” Smart said. “We’re just trying to play basketball the right way and give ourselves a chance. ... “For us to hold each other accountable starts with me, being the defensive leader on this team and one of the leaders on this team. If guys see me holding my own self accountable, that should be no excuse for anybody else.”