In many ways the landscape of Boston sports is virtually unrecognizable compared to twenty-five years ago. While the Celtics fell on some rough times in the late-1990s the mystic remained. It was never uncommon for behemoths to succumb to regression for a decade. The New York Yankees from 1982 to 1995 were the dregs of the Major League’s. The basement is inevitable, it’s the prolonged stay that is the bigger concern.
Since 2008 the Celtics have not been in a funk by any stretch of the imagination. Experiencing only one season without a playoff appearance (2014), six conference finals appearance, two NBA finals trips and one championship is nothing to sneeze at. But we are impatient and demand the moon. The feeling around the league when Giannis secured his first championship was an overwhelming “FINALLY!” despite the fact he is only 26. But to many he’s been around forever and his chances were plentiful prior to this season. Failure is unacceptable to the people who’ll never amount to much in life as they tie themselves to complete strangers in a one-way symbiotic relationship.
My Twitter timeline is flooded with “You’re next” tagging Jayson Tatum. No. No he isn’t. The NBA is a silly league governed by happenstance and elitism. The only reason the Bucks are here is thanks to Covid-19 attacking the NBA’s best players, and benefiting from untimely injuries. Otherwise we’d be treated to a soul crushing Lakers-Nets series. The talking heads glee would make me vomit. Thankfully they did not get wha they wanted. Giannis, the man they’ve tried to goad out of Milwaukee for the better part of three-years is likely to remain in his small-market, acting as the road block to Kevin Durant and the aforementioned Tatum for years to come. More piranhas in the tank is preferable than just one or two.
If the Celtics are to be where Milwaukee is the explanation lies in Marcus Smart. With Kemba Walker in Oklahoma point guard duties are solely his. Second year man Peyton Pritchard likely his backup baring a trade. People have linked the Celtics to guards like Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills and I don’t see it. We don’t have the financial capital nor the resources to swing those kinds of deals. We are a team caught between eras, one where we looked for talent to prop up the Jays and the future one where we build wholly in the image of Tatum.
For this year (and possibly the next) the offense is Smart’s to handle. His chief responsibility is to feed his all-star forwards and do so often. Smart’s gotten the reputation as a shot chucker and personally I understand how that’s come to be. His wildly confident in his shot that often betrays him and even when that is apparent he is undaunted. That is something I can admire from afar about him, though it is maddening when your season hinges on it.
But little do people know he is very responsible when in a distributor role versus when casted as one of the offensive forces. Smart has the brain of a Mike Conley during the stretches where he is the one, concerning himself with getting others involved. When the floor general isn’t him he is one of the marksmen in the trenches waiting for the command to fire. As much as not bringing back Walker is a sign this team will go as far as Jaylen and Jayson will take them, this was a bigger vote of confidence in point guard Smart.
How will he do? God knows. Dude is a fine ball player coming off a sluggish 2021 campaign that is forgivable given how virtually everyone on the roster had a season they’d like to forget and can chalk it up to the unsettling backdrop it took place under. Sadly, it seems Covid will remain in the background for at least one more season and we’ll have to wait and see how Boston handles the issue.
Again, 2021 wasn’t pretty. But blame players being in and out of the lineup for the entire season. Nothing about 2021 seemed to be real. A respectable 45-win team was cut down to 36, in my opinion. And for what it’s worth, Smart says his sluggish play on both sides of the ball was due to personal issues off the floor. Those are complicated matters I cannot comprehend. I think we should respect it and hope he is able to be in a better place mentally this upcoming season.
According to Chris Forsberg, in the 2019-20 season in the limited reps Smart received at point guard (23 percent of his 1,919 minute) he enjoyed a positive 9.9 net rating, ranking strongly in the 93rd percentile of combo-guards. The year before, you know the worse year to be a Celtics fan, he did even better with a plus-10.6 net rating logging a mere 8 percent.
It is very likely Smart is on the track to becoming a Kyle Lowry type player. Both struggled to find their shot for many years, but were renown for their defensive prowess.
If this experiment works Boston could then search for that illusive shooter off the bench they haven’t had since James Posey. Hell, if Tristan Thompson enjoys a renaissance the Nets in need of a center could for deal him giving back Joe Harris in my dream scenario.
All our hopes and dreams hinges on our streaky shooting guard now playing point guard.