CANTON -- As the playoffs rolled on a year ago for the Boston Celtics, something wasn’t right with Marcus Smart.
There were too many times when he would be defending a player, get a step behind and never catch up.
And inside the locker room, the 6-foot-4 guard would experience serious back pain before, during and after games.
When the season ended, the Celtics knew what the problem was, and so did Smart.
He was playing with too much weight.
So this summer, at the urging of the Celtics, Smart made it his mission to drop a few -- okay, quite a few -- pounds.
And the fourth-year guard kept his word, losing about 20 pounds. Now weighing 223, Smart said he hasn’t been this light since he was at Oklahoma State.
With the lighter load, Smart envisions himself being an even better, more versatile defender now.
“I see me being able to guard guards like [Washington’s] John Wall and Bradley Beal and guys like that, a lot better,” said Smart, who added that he played at 240 last season. “Definitely see my energy level stay at a high rate.”
Last season, Smart said the added weight didn’t impact his energy level in the first half of games.
“By the fourth quarter,” he said. “I still had that mindset but my body just wouldn’t allow me to do it.”
Even though training camp doesn’t start until Tuesday morning, Smart’s teammates have already noticed the impact of him having lost weight.
“He looks good, man," said Jaylen Brown. "He’s moving a lot faster. He’s jumping a lot higher; it’s kind of weird to see him like that. To see him now, he’s like 25 pounds lighter. It’s like, ‘Who is this guy?' "
Brown added: “It’s going to be a good year for him.”
Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, acknowledged the team’s desire this summer was for Smart to lose weight.
“But Marcus wanted to, also,” Ainge added. “Marcus knew . . . he’s worked extremely hard. I credit Marcus mostly for wanting it and putting in the time. It’s refreshing to see and fun to see.”
Last season, Smart would at times suck his stomach in because he didn’t like the way it looked while wearing a t-shirt.
“He’s wearing his tank-top around, sometimes takes his shirt off," quipped Ainge. “[We tell him] 'Marcus, put your shirt back on. We see the six-pack [abs], okay?' But seriously, it’s fun to see him. He’s got guys throwing alley-oops to him in pick-up games and when they have a time-out. That’s fun to see. I’m hoping that leads to a great year for him.”
Coach Brad Stevens echoed similar sentiments about Smart, who is the longest-tenured player on Boston’s roster.
“Marcus is a critical part of our team,” Stevens said. “Ultimately, we want our identity to be a team that gets better every day. His mindset, his competitive spirit, his toughness, his will, all of those things, make teams better. It’s a perfect complement to anybody and everybody to play with. We need Marcus. He’s an important part of this team.”