Celtics

Celtics Spotlight: Marcus Smart's defense, leadership keys to stabilize young C's

Celtics Spotlight: Marcus Smart's defense, leadership keys to stabilize young C's

Marcus Smart confidently strutted into Celtics Media Day last month in a shamrock-clad white bathrobe, then routinely used his veteran status to muscle out rookies and shorten his wait to complete his day’s obligations.

Smart is still improbably just 25 years old. But he is undoubtedly a veteran on this fresh-faced Celtics squad. He marvels at how quickly the first six years of his NBA career have flown by and, yet, the 2014 draftee is easily the longest-tenured member of Brad Stevens’ roster.

The Celtics simply want Smart to be himself this season, that crazily-diving-on-the-floor, gleefully-guarding-7-foot-big-men cyclone of constant activity who leads not only with his voice but the all-out way he plays.

It’s a successful season for Smart if… 

… he earns another All-Defense nod, which would be no small feat considering the amount of back-line defensive talent the Celtics lost this summer. Smart is one of the game’s elite defenders — as evidenced by his All-Defense first-team nod last season — and he will be tasked with trying to smother talent of all sizes this season. With Smart, it’s never about the stat line, but if he can spearhead the second-unit offense when Kemba Walker is off the court, set the defensive tone, and provide leadership, then he’ll check all the boxes on his to-do list.

It’s a disappointing season for Smart if… 

… the injury bug tries to chomp on him again. After playing a career-high 80 games last season, Smart tore an oblique in a meaningless late-season tilt and missed the early portion of the playoffs while recovering. It was the second consecutive year that a late-season injury left Smart less than 100 percent in the postseason. Smart will be vital to Boston maintaining a defense that ranks in the top half of the league and they absolutely need him at full strength when the playoffs roll around.

2019-2020 Outlook

A year after earning the role of Kyrie Irving’s preferred backcourt sidekick, Smart could be headed back to the bench. But he’ll likely have an even greater opportunity to impact the team. If Smart can maintain his improved 3-point shooting (36.4 percent a year ago) and use his playmaking to power the second-unit offense, then he might even have an outside shot at Sixth Man of the Year consideration (though it tends to land with a high-scoring bench player). Smart’s leadership will be key in getting the most out of a young roster.

French import Poirier ready to get his hands dirty with C's>>>>

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Classic Celtics: Watch Larry Bird's heroics vs. Pacers in 1991 playoffs

Classic Celtics: Watch Larry Bird's heroics vs. Pacers in 1991 playoffs

Larry Bird was one of the most talented players in NBA history.

But he was also tough as nails.

Exhibit A: Game 5 of the Boston Celtics' first-round playoff series with the Indiana Pacers on May, 5, 1991, which NBC Sports Boston will re-air Wednesday night as part of our "Classic Celtics" series.

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Bird suffered a nasty head injury late in the second half of the winner-take-all Game 5, and Celtics fans feared he was done for the game.

The 34-year-old C's legend triumphantly returned in the second half, though -- much to the delight of the raucous Boston Garden crowd -- and incredibly finished with a team-high 32 points to help the Celtics defeat a talented Pacers team 124-121 and win the series, 3-2.

Our re-broadcast of Celtics-Pacers Game 5 begins at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday and will feature additional commentary from Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, an Indiana native who grew up rooting for the Pacers.

Here's how to watch:

When: Wednesday, April 8, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Boston
Streaming: NBCSportsBoston.com and in the MyTeams app

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Wrestlemania 36: Enes Kanter has great reaction to Rob Gronkowski's 24/7 title win

Wrestlemania 36: Enes Kanter has great reaction to Rob Gronkowski's 24/7 title win

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter is a huge wrestling fan, so he was understandably fired up when former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski won a title belt at Wrestlemania 36.

Gronkowski has taken his talents to the ring, where he won the 24/7 title Sunday night. This belt must be defended at all times, and it can be won in any place at any time as long as a WWE referee is there.

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Here's a look at the moment Gronk won the title.

Kanter responded to Gronkowski's latest accomplishment with the following tweet:

Interestingly, Kanter also held the 24/7 title belt (he's hoisting it in the left picture above) at one point when he took part in a WWE event at Madison Square Garden in September of 2019.

Kanter lost the belt just seconds after claiming it when WWE star R-Truth won it right back. The New York Knicks fans in attendance, who weren't happy to see a Celtics player win anything, happily cheered when R-Truth took the belt from Kanter. 

Kanter likely has several more years of playing NBA basketball before he will transition to the next part of his life. Given his athletic ability and fondness for the WWE, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Turkish center become a professional wrestler at some point. Maybe Kanter and Gronk will square off in the ring with the 24/7 title at stake some time down the road?