The longest-tenured Boston Celtic was the subject of trade rumors last offseason even after signing a four-year, $77 million contract extension in August. He once again finds himself in the conversation despite his success as the C's starting point guard in 2021-22, which helped propel them to their first NBA Finals berth since 2010.
At this point, Smart shrugs off the criticism and lets the results speak for themselves.
“I think I proved a little bit everything,” Smart told The Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach. “I hear the talks about ‘He’s not a true point guard’ and this and that. ‘They need a star point guard.’ We’ve had star point guards, and yet this so-called non-point guard is the only one that’s led them to the Finals.
"I think that right there says enough. I don’t really need to say too much more. I think everybody sees and understands, finally, the person I really am, and what I can do given the opportunity.”
Smart reinvigorated the Celtics' offense after returning from injury on Jan. 23. From that point on, Boston went 28-7 and cruised to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Smart averaged 12.8 points, 6.5 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game during that stretch. The Defensive Player of the Year turned heads with his playmaking, quieting the critics who doubted his ability to be the team's starting point guard.
Those same critics are speaking up again after the Celtics failed to bring home Banner 18, advocating for Boston to upgrade at the point guard position. New year, same story.
"And I'm still here," Smart told Himmelsbach. "I’m still the longest-tenured Celtic. So for me, I take it as a compliment. It means you’re valued pretty high and if your name is talked about people want you. But I don’t pay much attention. I know what I bring to the table, and that’s what I focus on, what I bring to this team.
"We’ll figure everything else out. [President of basketball operations Brad Stevens] is great at what he does and he’s going to figure out the right pieces to make sure we stay going in the right direction.”
We'll get to see what Stevens has up his sleeve soon as NBA free agency opens on Thursday. It'd be a surprise to see Smart go anywhere following one of the best seasons of his eight-year NBA career.