Boston Celtics

Raptors' Lowry: Marcus Smart 'really coming into his own' in NBA

Raptors' Lowry: Marcus Smart 'really coming into his own' in NBA

BOSTON – Tonight’s game between Boston and Toronto is full of must-see matchups, some pitting established stars like Kyle Lowry up against on-the-rise talent like Marcus Smart.

Lowry has established himself as an All-Star in this league, but it didn’t happen overnight or for that matter, early in his career.

And that should give hope to the Celtics regarding Smart whose statistics in his first three NBA seasons are as good or better than most of Lowry’s stats up to that point in his career.

Smart has 45 games left in this season and he’s already played 162 games compared to Lowry who played a total of 169 games in his first three years in the league.

Smart has the higher scoring average, rebounding average, minutes played per game while most of their shooting numbers are comparable to one another.

Not surprisingly, Lowry likes what he has seen out of Smart who will get the starting nod tonight in place of Avery Bradley who is still on the mend with a right Achilles strain injury.

Filling in for Bradley in Boston’s 117-108 win over New Orleans, Smart delivered a very Bradley-like performance with a season-high 22 points against the Pelicans.

“I think he’s really coming into his own, figuring out … he’s going to make his niche being a hell of a defender,” Lowry told CSN’s Abby Chin. “He’s a guy who can defend multiple positions, one (point guard), two (shooting guard) and three (small forward). He’s getting more comfortable with that. He’s finding his jump-shot in rhythm.”

For Lowry, his career didn’t begin to shift into another gear until the 2010-2011 season with the Houston Rockets. 

A role player up to that point, the Rockets made him their starting point guard where he averaged a then-career high 13.5 points per game with a career-high 71 starts. 

“My niche when I first came into the league was to be energy and play hard, just figure it out,” Lowry said. “Once I got older and got in a situation where I had to be more offensive-minded, that helped propel me to understanding the game, watching more film and the game slows down a bit. I think this is his 3rd year? He hasn’t had to be in a situation where he’s had to be the lead guy. He’s always been on a team and in a situation where guys have been ahead of him. Now when he gets an opportunity to be that guy, the game will slow down for him.”

That appears to be happening now.

Even though there’s a clear pecking order of players ahead of Smart on the Celtics roster, there’s no denying how his game has evolved to a point where questions about whether he’s a point guard no longer linger.

And Smart has embraced the fact that he doesn’t fit neatly at any specific position on the floor.

“I’m a basketball player; that’s how I see myself,” Smart told CSNNE.com. “Whatever coach (Brad Stevens) needs me to do, I’ll do. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want to help us win games; that’s all.”

NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

houston-rockets-james-harden-rule-change-92217.jpg

NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

NEW YORK - NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season's playoffs.

Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden's attempts after he swings his arms into contact.

The new rules interpretations are being unofficially called the "Harden Rule" and the "Zaza Rule". The Washington Wizards accused the Celtics' Al Horford of a dangerous closeout on Markieff Morris that injured Morris and knocked him out of Game 1 of their playoff series two weeks before the Pachulia-Leonard play.

Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard's in Game 1 of Golden State's victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at a replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.

"It's 100 percent for the safety of the players," NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.

The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. 

Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia's foul would have been deemed a flagrant.

With the fouls on the perimeter shots - often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up - officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.

"We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let's catch up to it,"' NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.