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.”

Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

avery-bradley.jpg

Avery Bradley (Achilles) will not play vs. Knicks

BOSTON – Both New York and Boston will take to the floor tonight minus a starter courtesy of a sore Achilles injury.

For Celtics guard Avery Bradley, tonight will be the fifth time in the last six games that his right Achilles injury will keep him sidelined.

Meanwhile, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis will miss his fourth straight game with a sore left Achilles injury.

The 7-foot-3 Porzingis averages 19.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

Porzingis’ absence tonight was established well before tip-off.

“I’d say I’m 90 percent ready; still not there yet,” Porzingis told reporters prior to the game. “But I’m getting closer … hopefully the next game or after the next game.”

As far as Bradley is concerned, he was a last-minute matter.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked about his roster earlier tonight, and indicated Tyler Zeller (sinus) and James Young (ankle) would be on the inactive list tonight with injuries.

Without Bradley, the Celtics are expected to start Marcus Smart who has filled in as the team’s starter previously when the 6-foot-2 Bradley was unavailable.

 Bradley is the Celtics' second-leading scorer with 17.7 points per game this season, along with a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists. 

Anthony: Despite trade whispers, 'I'm committed' to staying with Knicks

Anthony: Despite trade whispers, 'I'm committed' to staying with Knicks

BOSTON -- When most of Carmelo Anthony’s elite NBA brethren were looking for max-money deals with the flexibility to bounce to another team from one year to the next, the perennial All-Star signed a five-year, $124 million deal in 2014, which was one of the many ways he showed that he’s all-in on being a New York Knick. 
 
And as the Knicks continue to drop one game after another, 'Melo once again finds himself having to answer questions as to whether he wants to be in New York for the long haul. 
 
He acknowledged prior to tonight’s game against the Boston Celtics that he recently met with Phil Jackson, New York’s president of basketball operations. He declined to talk specifics about the meeting, but he was asked whether he felt a need to reiterate his commitment to a Knicks team that finds itself -- for now at least -- on the outside of the playoff picture. 
 
”I think it was just a . . . yeah, I mean, I'm committed,” he said after the team’s shootaround this morning prior to tonight's Celtics-Knicks game. “I don't have to prove that to anybody. I don't think I have to prove that to anybody. I don’t think I have to keep saying that. I don't think I have to keep talking about that. I know for a fact people know that; people see that. And right now my focus is on playing ball and staying with these guys. Because a lot of these guys have never dealt with all of this stuff before. Especially being in a market like New York and dealing with the articles and everybody has a different opinion on different situations. So a lot of these guys have never dealt with that. So for me it's just, it's all about being there. Moreso than ever right now during this time for them.”
  
Since he arrived via (forced) traded from Denver, 'Melo has seen his share of ups and downs in New York -- probably more downs in terms of the team’s success.
 
But even with that familiarity, Anthony acknowledged that this season’s problems do have a different feel than previous ones. 
 
“I've had this a couple times over the past couple seasons so I kinda know what this feeling is like,” Anthony said. “I think now it's a little bit different being the fact that the guys we have on this team, the talent level that's on this team, and for us to still kinda be losing these games, close games, non-close games . . . that's a different feeling.”
 
New York traded for Derrick Rose, a former league MVP, and signed Joakim Noah via free agency. 
 
With those former Bulls, coupled with Anthony and an emerging star in Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks were expected to provide a nucleus for success that would position them to be a playoff contender. The season is still young, but they've have been one of the bigger disappointments in the NBA this season. 
 
After a 16-13 start, their slide began with a Christmas Day loss to Boston that put them in a tailspin that they’re still trying to play their way out of. They come into tonight’s game having lost 11 of their last 13 games and sit six games below .500 at 18-24.
 
And as far as Anthony's future with the Knicks, if he leaves it will be his decision. 
 
But he's maintained -- throughout the peaks and valleys in his time with the Knicks -- that he has no desire to play for any other franchise, which is why the no-trade he has is so important. 
 
Simply put, he ain’t leaving New York unless he wants to. 
 
“I think as players you always want to protect yourself,” Anthony said. “I didn't think it would get to this point, but I think as a player if you can get that (no-trade clause), you have a right to protect yourself and take care of yourself when it comes to that. It's very hard to get . . . So, I have it and that's that.”