Celtics

After waiting a week to play, Monroe shines for Celtics

After waiting a week to play, Monroe shines for Celtics

WASHINGTON – Greg Monroe’s last game prior to Thursday night’s debut with the Boston Celtics, was Jan. 29, a span of more than a week.

Despite the lay-off, Monroe wasn’t any worst for wear in helping Boston escape Washington with a 110-104 overtime win against the Wizards.

Monroe, who signed his one-year, $5 million deal with the Boston just hours before Thursday night’s tip-off, didn’t have to wait long before head coach Brad Stevens called his number (it’s 55 by the way).

Stevens, who said prior to the game that he wasn’t sure if he would play Monroe tonight, turned to the 6-foot-11 veteran in the first quarter.

And to Monroe’s credit he didn’t disappoint, scoring five points to go with six rebounds and two steals while logging just under 20 minutes of court time for the night.

More than anything else, Monroe had a presence about him that as you go up and down the Celtics roster, has been lacking this season.

“It felt good to be on the court,” Monroe said.

And it was good for Boston, as Monroe’s first made basket came at a timely point in the game.

In the second quarter, Monroe scored while being fouled which turned into a 3-point play that put the Celtics ahead 37-36 with 8:17 to play in the first half.

Brad Stevens has seen Monroe play better than what we saw in his first game with Boston. However, the fifth-year coach was encouraged by Monroe’s overall play just hours after officially becoming a Celtic.

“For him to come in and, you know, we simplified what we're doing for the most part just to certain actions that we had talked to him about,” Stevens said. “I thought he did a really good job. We'll continue to get more used to playing with him." 

Boston went with a big lineup that included 6-2 Terry Rozier at the point, surrounded by 6-7 Jaylen Brown, 6-9 Marcus Morris, 6-9 Daniel Theis and Monroe who is 6-11.

That is the lineup that began the second quarter and ultimately put the Celtics ahead at various points in the second.

Not only did that five-man unit make plays, but maybe just as important was their ability to be effective with Al Horford and Kyrie Irving on the bench resting.

Said Stevens: “One of the things you think about when adding Greg is, that’s time that you don’t have to stagger Kyrie and Al. And so that’s a positive moving forward.”

And with Monroe’s ability to play multiple positions – he plays both power forward and center – the Celtics  will continue to be able to effectively make switches defensively when needed.

“That’s one of the positives we have on our team, our versatility from our wings to our bigs,” Irving said.

And with Monroe, Boston has yet another talented, versatile player in the fold.

“It’s incredible,” Irving said. “Brad has more weapons to work with now. We’ll see how it works going forward.”

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Marcus Smart remains cautiously optimistic on return to the Boston Celtics

Marcus Smart remains cautiously optimistic on return to the Boston Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. — Marcus Smart, less than two weeks away from becoming a restricted free agent, remains cautiously optimistic that he will be back with the Celtics this season.

“I do,” he said at his basketball camp held on the campus of Brandeis University. “I haven’t put too much thought into this off-season, the free agency thing.

He added, “my number one focus is on my family now. I have a lot of stuff going.”

Specifically, Smart’s mother Camellia Smart is battling cancer.

Smart, who has spent a good chunk of the offseason with her in Texas, said her health has been his number one priority this summer.

“Right now, she needs all the positive thinking we can give her,” said Smart who added that she has three kidney stones and has lost the ability to walk due to chemotherapy treatments. 

While basketball is certainly an afterthought for Smart at this time, both he and the Celtics will have to make some tough decisions soon. As a restricted free agent, the Celtics can match any offer he receives. 

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A number of teams, including the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns are doing their homework on Smart to determine 1) If they want to make an offer to him and 2) what’s a number they can put out there that would dissuade the Celtics from matching.”

Smart, selected by the Celtics with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, has been a mainstay in the Celtics rotation from the moment he joined the team.

Despite often being criticized for his poor shooting, Smart averaged 9.4 points per game throughout his career as a Celtic, appearing in 251 regular season games.

His impact most nights lies at the defensive end of the floor where he has emerged as one of the better on-the-ball defenders in the NBA.

And while most think of good perimeter defense as contesting shots, Smart has shown you can be a difference-maker defensively by being in the right position at the right time as well.

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After rallying back from a 26-point deficit to beat Houston earlier this season, Smart drew a pair of offensive fouls on inbounds plays against James Harden in the closing moments to help secure the win.

And there have been countless dives on the floor for loose balls, deflections, rebounds and of course forcing turnovers, that have made Smart a player that has tremendous value in the eyes of the Celtics.

But in terms of dollars and cents, how much is Smart really worth to the Boston?

There are several teams in the NBA  such as the New York Knicks and Detroit Piston s, that are making calls inquiring about Smart to determine if they will make an offer to the restricted free agent-to-be next month.

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