Smart makes presence felt on D in C's debut

Smart makes presence felt on D in C's debut
July 5, 2014, 4:30 pm
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ORLANDO, Fla. — Marcus Smart didn't shoot the ball particularly well in his pro debut on Saturday with the Celtics.

Still, as Smart displayed, poor shooting does not necessarily make for a poor night of play when it comes to his game.

Smart's defense was among the many factors working for the Celtics in their 85-77 summer league victory over Miami.

The 6-foot-4 rookie had 10 points with five rebounds and three assists. But he also had countless deflections, some of which eventually contributed to his game-high five steals.

Summer league standouts often come in the form of guys who make shots, rather than players like Smart who are just as happy with getting defensive stops.

Smart acknowledges his defensive play might be ahead of his game offensively.

"I was born and raised playing defense," Smart said. "Every team I played with, is a defensive-minded team first before offense. It was always defense."

Part of his early struggles admittedly had to do with him being nervous. Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga, who is also the team's summer league coach, thought part of Smart's struggles were directly related to the lineup.

Smart was with the first group that included Phil Pressey, who played at the point guard position more than Smart.

"This is an adjustment for him and Phil," Larranaga said. "They're both point guards. Even thought they're both really smart and really good ball-handlers, that's not always easy to play off another point guard when you're used to having the ball in your hands. That'll be an adjustment for both of them. I thought both of them did a great job."

With his size, length and lateral quickness, Smart has the ability to play both guard positions defensively.

But his versatility doesn't end there, evident by the Celtics using him at times to defend small forwards as well.

"Larranaga said it was a reflection of the team's roster, which does not include a true small forward. Still, there's no mistaking Smart's knack for holding his own defensively against players that come in all shapes and sizes.

"I'm sure Marcus will be on some bigger guys, some smaller guys," Larranaga said.

And while there will still be those concerned about Smart's offensive game, especially after scoring 10 points on Saturday on 2-for-8 shooting.

But Smart's strength - defense - fits in well with coach Brad Stevens' approach to how the game should be played.

"Coach Stevens is a defensive-minded coach," Larranaga said. "We talk about having a defensive-minded DNA. That's what we want every player who puts on a Celtics jersey, to do; to think defense first and the offense will take care of itself."