BOSTON -- One of Marcus Smart’s greatest qualities on the court is timing.
There are few players with an undeniable knack for being in the right place at the right time defensively, making his presence felt often when the game matters most.
But when it comes to asserting himself as being more than an above-average role player, Smart’s timing has been pretty lousy.
Smart was off to a solid start in his second season which began with him in the starting lineup. But a sprained left toe injury sidelined him long enough for Isaiah Thomas to join the first unit – and never leave.
He’s out now with a right hand laceration for at least another 10 days or so, opening the door once again for his role to change upon returning to the active roster courtesy of Terry Rozier playing the best basketball of his career.
In his first NBA start, Rozier tallied his first career triple-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in Boston’s win over New York.
SEE ALSO: Rozier leads C's to another victory
Rozier followed that up with a career-high 31 points in Boston’s 119-110 win over Atlanta on Friday night, filling in both nights for Kyrie Irving who is out with a right quadriceps injury.
Now when it comes to Marcus Smart, full disclosure folks.
I am a huge fan of his game, missed shots and all.
He impacts winning in a way that stands out night-in and night-out, which I appreciate greatly.
But I sense that just like Thomas’ emergence ultimately relegated Smart to the bench, the emergence of Rozier has the potential to at a minimum, cut into Smart’s playing time upon his return.
Now don’t get it twisted.
As long as Smart is a Celtic, he’s going to play important minutes.
MORE FROM SHERROD: C's will be without Kyrie again tomorrow
But those minutes might not be as plentiful as they have been in the past.
And with Smart hitting the restricted free agent marketplace this summer, there’s no telling how he will handle a potential change to his playing time, or whether the Celtics will look to trade him before Thursday’s trade deadline.
In an interview with NBC Sports Boston recently, Danny Ainge acknowledged the Celtics have had several conversations with a number of teams involving possible trades.
While it is an option he’s open to pursuing all the way up until the 11th hour, there’s no sense of urgency on his part to get a deal done.
“We’re on the phone all the time,” Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, told NBC Sports Boston. “We don’t have to do a deal. We’ll do a good deal. We don’t feel we have to do something because we have some glaring weakness. We know our team is not perfect, but I like the guys on the team.”
That includes Smart, whose role as a defensive stopper has become more of a necessity since Boston traded Avery Bradley to Detroit in exchange for Marcus Morris during the offseason.
Among players who average at least 30 minutes per game, Smart’s defensive rating of 98.9 is second in the NBA only to teammate Jayson Tatum (98.8).
So until Smart returns, it’ll be easy to forget about his impact on the team, especially if Rozier continues to play at a ridiculously high level.
But Smart remains a player with tremendous value, regardless of whether he plays starter-like minutes or not.
Because the one thing we know about Smart, is he will make an impact on the game – a timely one at that.