Celtics teammates endorse Marcus Smart for Defensive Player of the Year

Celtics teammates endorse Marcus Smart for Defensive Player of the Year

This Wednesday is Marcus Smart Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Smart throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Spurs-Celtics.


Jaylen Brown, no stranger to putting people on a poster, cringed when he saw what was about to happen.

The Celtics had lost Miami’s Bam Adebayo while defending a pick-and-roll, and now the bouncy Heat big man was rolling free to the rim and Marcus Smart made a rather bold decision to race over and contest.

Brown, waiting near the scorer’s table at American Airlines Arena, saw it all unfolding and, well, we’ll let him tell the story: 

“One of their most athletic players, Bam Adebayo, goes up to try to dunk one on top of Smart, and Smart meets him up there and gets likes the cleanest block I’ve ever seen,” said Brown. "It was just like a great example of elite athleticism. I wasn’t expecting Marcus to come out victorious in that situation and he did. 

“Most people wouldn’t jump. Like the dude’s name is Bam. Who’s going to jump with a dude named Bam, right? Marcus went up top with him, and came out on top.”

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Brown had been asked to recall a play that embodied the Smart experience. Like many of his teammates, Brown initially struggled to hone in on just one. The late-game charges taken versus James Harden? The Kawhi Leonard strip to give the Celtics a final gasp in L.A.? The improbable overtime putback in Toronto? Smart and “winning plays” have truly become synonymous in these parts.

But teammates often point to Smart’s fearlessness in defending the rim as what they marvel at most. It’s not a stretch to suggest that Smart is Boston’s best rim protector, despite the fact that he’s 6-foot-3, because he so often embraces the challenge of clogging a big man’s path to the basket.

Like earlier this season when a backcourt turnover left Wizards 6-foot-11 big man Mo Wagner rumbling towards the rim. Even while on his heels initially, Smart managed to shuffle into the charge circle, then leaped with Wagner as he reared back for a left-hand hammer, and Smart somehow denied the effort.

"That’s what really made me realize how special he was, man. He challenges guys who are six, seven inches taller than him, which is crazy sometimes to me,” said Kemba Walker. "His defense is insane.”

Insane enough that Smart truly deserves consideration for Defensive Player of the Year?

"Of course. No question. He’s been special,” said Walker. 'He’s been special this year. I don’t know if there’s many other guys better than him this year.”

Smart faces long odds for the award, if only because voting tends to skew towards big men. It’s been a quarter century since Gary Payton was the last guard to win the honor. But after elevating to the NBA’s All-Defense first team last year, and being the top vote-getter for DPOY among guards, the rest of the league is at least taking note of Smart’s defensive impact.

Smart wants voters to recognize the versatility he affords his team.

“Bigs, they do a lot. I’m not taking anything away from the bigs but when you’ve got a guard who is guarding 1 through 5, and the way I play bigger than a guard. I think [voters] just see the blocks or things like that, they don’t see all the other little things,” said Smart. "You don’t see a big running and diving on the floor like you see me as a guard. You don’t see a big getting out there guarding a 1 like I’m guarding a 5. You don’t see bigs doing all the little things that I’m doing. 

"It is unfair. It’s more of a popularity contest. I’m not people’s favorite player, which is fine with me. It just comes down to, when you see who’s voting and you see who they are voting for and why, they’re not even looking at the numbers and the stats. They’re looking at, ‘Oh, this is my favorite player and he plays for this team.’ That’s all they look at it. It is unfair but it is what it is.”

After his early season efforts, particularly against Leonard and the Clippers, Smart had current and former players stumping for him for Defensive Player of the Year, including former teammate Isaiah Thomas and former Celtics big man Kendrick Perkins. 

"Those guys, they know basketball,” said Smart. "The people who really know basketball really know and see the impact and effect that me as a guard has compared to bigs. The things I’m able to do that bigs just aren’t able to do. Like I said, it’s hard. You don’t really see often a big switching onto a 1 and being able to lock them down like I do on 5s. 

"It’s good to see those guys who really know basketball and really speak on it.”

Smart’s versatility is a big reason Boston owns the third best defense in the NBA while allowing 103.8 points per 100 possessions. The Celtics’ defensive rating dips to 102.3 when Smart is on the court.

More impressive are Smart’s individual defensive numbers. According to the NBA’s player tracking data, Smart is holding opponents to 39.5 percent shooting, or 5 percent below their typical average. That’s a top 35 mark in the NBA (and top 10 among players under 6-foot-4), but made all the more impressive given the caliber of offensive player that Smart is often tasked with defending. Factor in all the post ups he gleefully accepts against bigs and his defensive efforts become even more notable.

Rookie Grant Williams yearns to play defense like Smart. He’s gone so far as to dub himself Smart’s Mini Me — even though Williams is three inches taller — in part because Williams wants to play with the same intensity and versatility as Smart.

"I just respect how he plays defense,” said Williams. "In my opinion, he’s Defensive Player of the Year. He doesn't get the credit he deserves. Defensively, that’s what I want to absorb from him. I want to be a guy that can guard as many positions as he can. That’s the biggest thing.”

There was obvious concern when the Celtics lost both Al Horford and Aron Baynes over the summer. Many suggested Boston’s defense would plummet. But Smart wouldn’t allow it, and the progress made by young wings like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have helped Boston actually climb higher in defensive rating rankings.

Walker said it’s Smart who sets the tone, and he’s quickly learned why there’s so much chatter about “winning plays."

“He’s the pride and joy, man. We go as he goes. He brings the energy. He brings the passion, he brings the toughness,” said Walker. "Just that winning attitude. He means a ton.

“It’s exciting. It’s energizing. He just gets everybody going. Gets us going, gets the crowd going. Like I said, we just kinda feed off him. He just does so many great things. And propels our defense each and every night.”

Brown believes Smart truly deserves to be Defensive Player of Year. He said there simply aren’t a lot of players like Smart in the NBA.

"We got a lot of [talented] guys, but the stuff that Marcus kinda brings to the table, not a lot of people have,” said Brown. "That heart, that grit, that fire, that passion. We got a lot of cool guys that are kinda laid back; Marcus is the opposite. Marcus is a hit-first type of guy. My kind of guy.

"Just like I said, the energy, the grit, the fire, the passion, the desire, that fight. You necessarily can’t measure it. You can measure somebody’s height, you can measure somebody’s wingspan, but you can’t measure somebody’s heart. Marcus has got more than enough for one person.

"That's the type of stuff that causes winning plays.”

Don't miss Marcus Smart Day and NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Spurs, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Pacers simulation: Can Kemba Walker, C's keep up their hot streak?

Celtics-Pacers simulation: Can Kemba Walker, C's keep up their hot streak?

The NBA season has been put on hold due to the coronavirus crisis, meaning we have to wait a while to watch the Boston Celtics again.

As a way to make up for the loss of Celtics action, we'll be using the NBA 2K20 video game to simulate each game on the schedule until they finally return.


The Celtics were supposed to take on the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. Here's how our simulation of that game went:


Kemba Walker (28 points) and Gordon Hayward (19 points) carried the load offensively in what ended up being one of the lowest-scoring games for the Celtics in their past few simulations, which just goes to show how on fire they've been. They shined on the defensive end, tallying eight total steals and eight blocks.

With the game pretty much in hand, the C's second unit played for the entire fourth quarter. Rookie Romeo Langford was solid in his 12 minutes, contributing nine points, a steal, and an assist.


This was a disastrous offensive performance by the Pacers as they were unable to get any semblance of momentum throughout the contest. Malcolm Brogdon struggled from the field but was able to get nine of his 17 points from the free-throw line. Domontas Sabonis was the only real bright spot as he shot 7-for-10 from the field for 16 points while bringing down nine rebounds.


All you need to do is look at the field goal percentages and 3-point percentages (ZERO for Indiana!) to figure out what happened here. Boston dominated in pretty much every other major category too, despite possessing the ball for nine minutes less than the Pacers.

FINAL SCORE: Celtics 101, Pacers 77

Four games remain in the NBA 2K Celtics' regular-season schedule as they ride a 12-game win streak into their matchup vs. the Orlando Magic. Can they extend the streak to 13? Check back Friday to find out.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Mike Gorman debates the best trades in C's history

Celtics Talk Podcast: Mike Gorman debates the best trades in C's history

With no Boston Celtics basketball on the docket for a while due to the coronavirus pandemic, there's no better time to reminisce on some of the greatest moves in the team's history.

NBC Sports Boston's longtime Celtics play-by-play voice Mike Gorman joined the latest Celtics Talk Podcast to discuss the best trades the organization has made. Of course, the ones for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen that formed the "Big Three" immediately come to mind. But to Gorman, the best deal in franchise history is a no-brainer.

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Gorman's No. 1 Celtics trade ever is the one that brought the great Bill Russell to Boston.

When Red [Auerbach] got Russell -- I mean, when you pull off a trade where you get three Hall of Famers in the first round of the draft, 'cause K.C. Jones was on the tail end of that and nobody talks about him. Tommy [Heinsohn] was the rookie of the year. And you get Bill Russell, who goes on to win 11 championships and is MVP five times.

That's got to be the best trade ever for Ed Macauley who was a good player but certainly not a great player. And Cliff Hagan who was a good player but not a great player. Neither one of those guys was going to do anything anywhere near what Bill Russell did to the Celtics. I think the Russell trade has to be the best trade maybe in the history of sports.

The runner-up? That would be the deal 40 years ago that landed Hall of Famers Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.

Again, it was a situation where Red traded and ended up with two Hall of Famers and gave up Joe Barry Carroll whose whole career was a massive disappointment. You would have thought that no one would deal with Red again [after the Russell trade] ... But yeah, to get Kevin McHale and Robert Parish in a draft, and both of them end up going to the Hall of Fame, and you gave up a guy again who had a marginal career ... 

Gorman also discussed what he's been up to in quarantine, as well as what the Celtics' ceiling is if/when the season resumes.

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