Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
In Smart’s floor time, the Celtics owned an offensive rating of 109.3, or 5.1 points higher than the team’s game average. For all the laments about his individual shooting woes, Boston’s team production remains excellent during Smart’s slump. His post-All-Star net rating of plus-4 points per 100 possessions is the third best mark on the team behind only injured Jae Crowder (plus-5.1) and Thomas (plus-4.1).
Celtics coach Brad Stevens singled out Smart’s offensive rebound after Saturday’s win.
“Those are the things that make Marcus special,” Stevens told reporters in Phoenix. “Sometimes those go in a box score, sometimes they don’t. But he does them every game. That’s why I don’t get too caught up in the box score stuff with him. He impacts winning and tonight was a good example of that.”
Smart played 32 minutes off the bench, helping to take some of load off Avery Bradley (weak from an illness and a cross-country flight Saturday). He had eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and even a blocked shot.
“My main focus is try to, even though my shot’s not falling still, find a way to impact the game,” Smart told reporters after the game. “We have a lot of guys on this team that can do a lot of things. If my shot’s not falling, I try to pick us up some other way, especially when we have guys that are knocking down shots.”
The critics will point to his box score last night and see 0-5 from 3… bringing his percentage down to 25% on the season, 18% post-All Star break, and 15% in March. These numbers are putrid, and there’s no arguing that this is an area in which Smart desperately needs to improve.
However, as Chris Forsberg laid out, it’s not hurting the team. The offense runs better with Smart on the floor. Only the two best players on the team have a better net rating than he does. And watching last night, you can see the obvious positive effect he has on the floor with his hustle and defense.
Even his treatment of the refs is improving, a sign that the 22-year-old Smart recognizes his issue and is taking steps to correct it. I don’t know if that has played a role in the two offensive fouls he drew early in the game, but it certainly didn’t hurt. If the officials recognize that a guy is trying to tone down his behavior, human nature will take over and they’ll be more forgiving.
So why don’t we just be patient about this kid, huh? He has obvious, glaring problems. He also has obvious, glaring strengths and he plays a big role in Boston’s success. He’s a big part of Boston’s best lineup… the small lineup that includes him, Bradley, Thomas, and Crowder. So let’s look at the big picture.
The kid just turned 22. What were you doing at 22? How great were you in your career at that point? What if someone told you your career was a failure at that age?
Smart knows he has to work on his shooting. Let’s see if he can figure that out before bailing on him. In the meantime, try not to let every miss distract you from the good things he’s doing out there.
Related links: CSNNE: Smart finds a way to make an impact
Page 2: Paul Pierce isn’t quite sure if this is it
So here comes tomorrow night’s game against the Celtics, and Pierce wonders as much as anyone whether this will be the last time he plays his old team.
“I thought it last year,” he said. “I’m going to reevaluate it with my family and see how my body feels, see where my mind is most importantly. Get into training, getting ready for next season and, if my mind isn’t there, I’ll make a decision.
“Ever since I left Boston, I’ve relished it all,” he said. “I relish the moments you spend with your teammates, the travel and the camaraderie. Those are things I’ll miss because I’ve been at it for almost half my life. I take a lot of pictures on the road, I’ll take a lot of pictures with the guys.”
I really don’t want to think too much about the end of Paul Pierce’s career right now. That’s going to be an emotional day for all Celtics fans, and I’m only going to be able to write so many words about him. I don’t want to waste them here.
But I’ll just say that I hope he gets that title he’s looking for. I’m not sure he will. That Clippers team doesn’t seem fully ready to shock the West, but who knows what happens when Griffin gets back. Maybe Pierce can channel some magic off the bench and they can make a run.
Who knows? It’d be fun to see Pierce celebrate a ring in his hometown.
For those of you who celebrate Easter today, enjoy bingeing on whatever it is you gave up for the past month.
The rest of the links:
WEEI: Thomas saves C’s from themselves, escape with win | MassLive: Rumor: C’s not expected to sign Coty Clarke for season | Turner blocks Booker, preserves win over Suns | NESN: Hield lights up Oregon, makes Celtics fans dream (videos) | Herald: Bradley gets back onto the court | Thomas glad in return to Phoenix | C’s show off spirit of ’76 | Ray Allen’s game 6 3 cost Joey Crawford money, and nearly worse | Globe: Celtics have finishing touch at start of West Coast trip | Lillard & Trailblazers taking it personally | Celtics not expected to sign Coty Clarke