There are certain things you can know about Boston Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart just by looking at him in a basketball uniform.
More so than any other sport, basketball players are visible and vulnerable in their playing attire. There are no bulky pads or protective helmets. We can clearly see that Smart is around 6'3" and 227 pounds. If we work at the circus, we may come even closer to guessing those exact measurements.
We can clearly see his muscle definition and safely assume that this is a strong, athletic young man.
However, even in a sport as visually leveling as basketball, there is a lot hidden. There are countless things Boston fans still don't know about Rajon Rondo, a player they have been learning about for nearly a decade.
Smart has a whole life and background that few know a lot about, and that all comes before anything he can or can't do on a basketball court, individually and as a part of this current Celtics roster.
Over the next year, fans will get a large dose of what this 20-year-old kid can do on the court. But beyond that, there is still a whole lot you need to know about young Marcus Smart, a kid from Flower Mound, Texas.
The best place to start with getting to know a person is with their family, and in Smart's case, his was very formative.
You may have noticed during the summer league or during his time at Oklahoma State University that Smart has a set of No. 3 tattoos, one behind each arm. These represent his older brother, Todd, who unfortunately died in 2004 after battling cancer. Smart, born in 1994, was just a kid then. Todd, as well as each of his other brothers, Jeff and Michael, always wore No. 3 in their basketball-playing days.
At Oklahoma State, No. 3 was unavailable after being retired in memory of former player Dan Lawson, who died in a plane crash. So, Smart chose 33, double his original number and the age at which Todd passed away.
In Boston, Smart had to choose another number entirely. No. 3 hangs in the rafters in memory of Dennis Johnson, and No. 33 is self-explanatory (Larry Bird). Still, Smart chose a number that started with three, opting to wear No. 36. The six, he says, is for his draft spot. The Celtics landed him No. 6 overall in June's NBA draft.
Smart grew up with his brothers and both parents in Flower Mound. How much this young man values family is a great sign for his future in the league and with an organizational family as strong and storied as the Boston Celtics.
A small factor at this point, but definitely worth noting, is how much money Smart will be paid by the Celtics over his first contract.
On July 5, Smart was signed to a $14.8 million rookie-scale contract.
This coming season, the Celtics will pay Smart $3.28 million. In comparison, No. 5 pick Dante Exum will earn $3.615 million from the Utah Jazz, and No. 7 overall pick Julius Randle will be paid $2.997 million from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Smart will make a guaranteed $3.43 million for the 2015-16 season. Then the Celtics will have team options for two years at $3.58 million and $4.54 million. His qualifying offer in 2018-19 will be for $6.05 million.
The reputation of this rookie took a sizable hit last season when he entered into an altercation that involved him shoving a fan of the opposing team during a game at Texas Tech.
Smart claimed to have heard a racial slur being yelled by said fan. For his actions, Smart was suspended for three games of his sophomore season.
Perhaps the most telling sign in this ordeal, though, was the aftermath of his suspension. Smart has since done everything right, and immediately following his return to Oklahoma State, he and the team went on a tear. Oklahoma State won four straight games and toppled Texas Tech in the Big 12 conference tournament, earning a spot in the NCAA field.
While the incident drew national attention, a lot of the animosity was directed at that fan. Smart was viewed through the lens of being this young kid playing a game. He was an amateur at the time, not being paid to perform in front of all those screaming people.
Smart apologized and moved on, saying:
I want to apologize to the fan, whose name is Jeff Orr. I want to apologize to him. I want to apologize to my teammates, to my coaching staff, Coach (Travis) Ford, my family, Oklahoma State University. This is not how I (conduct) myself, this is not how this program is run. This is not how I was raised. I let my emotions get the best of me.
It was all he could do at that time. Since declaring for the NBA draft and leaving the Cowboys, Smart has rehabbed his image a fair bit. As he became a bigger name, more eyes navigated their way to Eric Prisbell's 2013 profile for USA Today, which paints Smart as a kid from troubled beginnings who had transformed himself into an unselfish, humble point guard.
Of course, that piece was published a little over a year before the shoving incident.
Since being drafted by the Celtics, Smart has made appearance for charities and done a lot of good things.
His fellow rookies clearly view him with respect, as showcased in the 2014-15 NBA.com rookie survey. He was voted as the best rookie defender, along with Philadelphia's K.J. McDaniels. They also placed him third in the category of best playmaker. Behind Twitter aficionado Joel Embiid, Smart was picked as the funniest rookie as well.
Perhaps the incident was merely a terrible case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Given the information provided by the rookie survey, it is pretty obvious where Smart's strengths reside.
He is a fearsome defender and a quality distributing penetrator.
The size and strength he presented at the college level are typically unseen in kids at his age. They will translate seamlessly into the NBA. Things will move a little faster than he is used to, but his strength and lateral quickness should cover up for a fair amount of that.
Likewise, a major thing to keep in mind is that the Celtics are not expecting him to come out of the gates guarding John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Tony Parker. Boston has a very capable starting backcourt with a fair amount of experience in Rondo and Avery Bradley. Both are also plus defenders and have been recognized by the league with All-Defensive team nods in the past.
Smart will have the time to ease into this transition while using his abilities in shorter periods to really showcase his specific skills and hone the ones that need work.
The benefit Smart will have defensively is that sheer size and strength. At roughly the same height, he outweighs a player like Bradley by 40-plus pounds. Looking at him, you know that isn't extra body fat. It is muscle and size in the center of his body mass.
When dealing with bigger guards, who nullify Bradley's crafty quickness by forcing him lower into the offensive zone, Smart will have an easier time holding ground and even forcing them out.
In transition, he has the speed to keep up with fast-breaking players and the defensive instinct of where to keep his hands. With time to think on the perimeter in the half court, Smart loses some of that instinct and overthinks, using his hands to commit fouls. That is something NBA seasoning will teach him.
What we saw from Smart in summer league should be taken fairly lightly. His shooting was atrocious, hitting 29.4 percent from the field and missing 26 of 35 three-point attempts.
Offensively, shooting likely won't be his primary game, though. That three-point shot is going to have to come along eventually, (29.5 percent in college) if he wants to play next to Rondo, just like it did for Bradley. For now, he will have to rely more on being a slightly undersized slasher when playing with Boston's first unit.
If he is playing without Rondo, Smart can take over a bit more of those playmaking duties he seemed to be so deft at during college.
Smart is an incredibly patient offensive player. Seeing that from a 20-year-old is pretty rare, but with Smart it seemed natural. He was able to maintain his dribble through contact and wait until a passing lane opened or he had a clean look at the rim. This also helps in drawing fouls. Smart is in no rush to create the contact, instead understanding what he has to do to make it come to him and get to the line.
Smart averaged 8.1 free-throw attempts per game as a sophomore and visited the charity stripe 30 times in five summer league contests.
Smart's off-Court Presence
Perhaps most important to a lot of fans is Smart's presence in their daily lives. In 2014, NBA players are regularly a part of our days, and Smart is no different.
Smart appears to be fairly active on both sites and has a decent sense of humor as well. Maybe that is why the NBA rookies voted him as funniest, next to Embiid. While Smart has yet to proposition any married celebrities, he has had some very good tweets since becoming a member of the Boston Celtics.
He showed some serious leaping ability, while also calling out No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker.
He was clearly saddened by what happened with Indiana Pacers star Paul George during the Team USA scrimmage. Smart was invited to participate in Team USA training camp this summer and impressed while he was there. He also appears to have developed some relationships with the league's prominent stars.
Smart will represent Adidas after signing an endorsement deal with the company this summer. He joins the likes of Dwight Howard, Wall and new teammate Bradley as members of the Adidas family.
He is also clearly excited about joining the Boston Celtics.
In the end, that is all you really need to know.
We should, you know, hang out some time...
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