C's top pick Smart embraces leadership role

C's top pick Smart embraces leadership role
July 3, 2014, 12:45 pm
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WALTHAM, Mass. — Marcus Smart has as many NBA games under his belt with the Celtics as most of you reading this story.

But as you watch him in shooting drills or interacting with his teammates or talking to coaches, you can't help but notice the 6-foot-4 guard just oozes leadership.

"He just has a natural ability to be what would be defined as what a lot of people would say, 'That looks like a leader,'" said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "That's his reputation."

Smart will get an opportunity to make that perception a reality this weekend when the Celtics kick off their summer league schedule in Orlando, Fla.

And while Smart's summer league debut this weekend will soon be forgotten, that doesn't diminish its importance.

"Even though it's summer league, it'll still be a big deal to me," Smart said. "It is my first game and we'll be playing against tough competition."

And while the Celtics will be keeping tabs on several players in the summer league, it's hard to imagine anyone garnering more attention on the roster than Smart, the Celtics' first-round draft pick and No. 6 overall.

Not only for his play, but also his presence as a leader.

There are some rookies that would shy from the responsibility, but Smart is more than comfortable with embracing it.

"I've always grown up feeling like a leader," he said. "These guys embrace it and allow me to be a leader. So, it starts to get easier for me."

But this is summer league, where the players Smart is competing with and against have just as little experience as he does.

The scene will be radically different in the fall when the Celtics' veterans return. Establishing himself as a leader this summer will be a good start. But once the games really count, that's when true leadership shines through.

"I don't think it'll be much of a challenge," Smart said when asked about how things will be when veterans, such as Rajon Rondo, return. "Them being veterans is only going to help me more."

Stevens is pleased with what he has seen thus far from Smart as a player, a person and a leader.

Still, he's quick to remind folks that anointing a leader, let alone a rookie who hasn't played a single game in the league, isn't the way to go.

"Leadership can show itself in a lot of different ways," Stevens said. "There are guys that never say a word who lead well. There's guys who are very loud and lead wrong. But then you got a guy like Marcus who really shows himself well in all of his work and has a good vocal about him.

Stevens added, "But you know leadership is something that's not gained through two days. It's gained through your everyday walk and how you do things and how consistent you are, and ultimately earning that respect of your team over time."