Celtics

Smart: Celtics 'already planning for me to be here' next season

Smart: Celtics 'already planning for me to be here' next season

WALTHAM – Marcus Smart will be a restricted free agent this summer, which means there’s a chance the 6-foot-4 defensive stalwart could be playing with another team next season. 

That doesn’t appear to be likely, at least that was the impression Smart came away with following his exit interview with Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, and head coach Brad Stevens. 

“They’re already planning for me to be here (next season),” Smart said.

Because Smart will be a restricted free agent, the Celtics will have the right to match any offer he receives from another team.  

“I want to be in Boston,” Smart said. “I want to be here, I love the city, I love this team. I love the atmosphere it gives off. I been here for four years; my heart’s here.”

With Smart, Boston has one of the more versatile defensive players in the NBA who has shown the ability to be a game-changer even on nights – a lot of nights, actually – when he’s not making shots. 

Look at Boston’s 87-79 Game 7 loss to Cleveland which ended Boston’s season. 

Smart missed nine of his 10 shots from the field, and yet the Celtics were still a +2 when he was on the floor. 

Ainge has been a big fan of Smart’s even before they drafted him with the sixth overall pick in 2014.

Smart worked out twice for the Celtics leading up to that draft, the first of which was by all accounts a bad one.

His second workout was much better and confirmed what Ainge and the rest of the Celtics’ brass thought of Smart.

And while he has certainly had his share of ups and downs both on the floor and off, it’s clear that he’s a player they intend to re-sign this summer.

“Danny emphasizes all the time how much he loves me as a player,” Smart said. “And I want to be here, so that’s the plan right now.”

And while the price tag for keeping Smart may be a bit higher than the Celtics want, there’s no denying the retention of Smart will go far in Boston’s efforts to take the next step in their growth as a franchise which would be a trip back to the NBA Finals. 

The Celtics ownership has shown a willingness to pay what’s necessary to keep a championship-caliber team intact in past years, and have steadily built a roster that’s trending in that direction.

Two summers ago, Boston signed Al Horford to a max-salaried contract. And this past summer, they signed Gordon Hayward and traded for Kyrie Irving, both of whom are max-salaried players. 

While Smart certainly isn’t in that category salary-wise, he will be a player that will draw interest from a handful of teams that are aware that they will likely have to overpay in order to pry Smart out of Boston. 

“We know that in Boston, our ownership group has been fantastic,” Ainge said. “They’ve been willing to pay for teams that have a chance. The way that our team played this year, the hope that there is, that will make it easier for them to step forward and realize the potential of this team and be willing to pay the money that we need to be as good as we can.”

But don’t think that means they’ll write a blank check to keep Smart in the fold, either. 

“There’s certainly plateaus and ridiculous spending,” Ainge said, “And there’s responsible spending and that’s what we’re trying to do, is be responsible.”

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Kemba Walker injury: Danny Ainge gives update on Celtics star's knee

Kemba Walker injury: Danny Ainge gives update on Celtics star's knee

Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker has missed four consecutive games with a left knee injury, including Wednesday night's 114-103 win over the Utaz Jazz on the road.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge gave an update on Walker's knee during his weekly Thursday morning appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich" show, and he doesn't seem too worried about the situation.

“We’re just taking it day by day, and we’re being very cautious with Kemba,” Ainge said. “We feel like we need Kemba to be his best self, and right now, we don’t think that he can sustain what he wants to do. But we are confident that his knee is going to be fine and that he’ll be ready to go at some point in the near future.”

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A lot has been made of Walker playing in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 16. Walker was among the game's starters for Team Giannis, and he played nearly the entire fourth quarter as the matchup became ultra competitive. Ainge downplayed the impact playing in Chicago has had on Walker's absence.

“I think the All-Star Game is a little bit of an overblown situation,” Ainge said. “I mean, if he plays 20 minutes or he plays 29, I’m not sure it really makes that much of a difference, especially since it’s one game over a six or seven-day period. So, I don’t really have any regrets about that. I think that this has been an issue that has been lingering a little bit from before the All-Star Game and I think that nobody really knew to what extent, and we’re just being really cautious with him right now.”

The Celtics are fortunate to be in a situation where they don't need Walker to rush back. The C's are building a comfortable distance between themselves and the No. 4 seed, so it's looking increasingly likely Boston will earn at least the No. 3 seed. Given the Toronto Raptors' difficult schedule to finish the regular season, getting the No. 2 seed also is a pretty realistic goal for the Celtics. 

It's not crazy to be a little concerned about Walker. He is one of the team's most important players, and the Celtics no doubt are at their best when he's in the lineup. The Celtics taking a cautious approach is absolutely the right decision. It's much better for Walker to miss games in February than be sidelined in April and May when the playoffs are in full swing.

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Kendrick Perkins gives Celtics guard Marcus Smart the ultimate compliment

Kendrick Perkins gives Celtics guard Marcus Smart the ultimate compliment

There's little doubt Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics.

Whether it's great leadership, All-NBA caliber defense, 100 percent effort and hustle on almost every play, or carrying the load offensively when needed, Smart gives the Celtics a boost in so many areas. 

Smart's presence was felt at both ends of the floor in Boston's 114-103 win over the Utaz Jazz on the road Wednesday night.

His defense was fantastic. Jazz players shot 4-for-12 from the field, including a lackluster 1-for-8 mark from 3-point range versus Smart. He also made an impact offensively with 17 points, including a couple clutch baskets in the fourth quarter. He had nine assists, too.

Smart's all-around play received a special shotout on Twitter from former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, who paid the C's guard the ultimate compliment.

Well said, Perk.

Smart embodies all of the qualities that have made the Celtics the premier NBA franchise for more than 50 years. His performance at both ends of the court, as well as his leadership, are so valuable to this Celtics team. If the C's make a deep run in the 2020 NBA playoffs, you can bet Smart will be a driving force behind that success.

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