It was bothering me.
How do you explain Marcus Smart?
It was easy when he first entered our lives. He was the first-round pick who couldn’t shoot and most Celtics fan overvalued. Fact. My favorite game for three years was to mention on the radio how Marcus Smart would never make an All-Star team and have the wave of Green Teamers wash over me with angry phone calls.
Don’t worry, he was going to be Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook all wrapped up in one. Players need time to develop. That shot would come around.
The shot never really did come around. But my way of viewing this player did.
So, what exactly what was so annoying about attempting to define Smart? I finally figured out why the frustration: There has been no other professional athletes in Boston like him … Ever.
When you go through a night like Game 7 against the Raptors and rightfully proclaim that the Celtics wouldn’t have won without Smart, finding evidence is exhausting. The usual go-to of pointing to pieces of the box score isn’t a viable option. Sure, 13 points a game through 11 postseason contests is welcome considering the need for another scorer, but there sits those 29 turnovers just a few columns away.
There is, however, no doubt that in those moments that matter most it is Smart who has to be on the floor. A dive. A steal. A block. An offensive foul. A pass. And even a (gulp) shot.
Here, let’s give this a try. Who is Marcus Smart? He is the most unique professional athlete I have ever seen.
Examples are often difficult to come by, unless you write them down:
Midway through the second quarter Toronto is pulling away, leading by seven with momentum. Smart clearly has that look in his eye that there is no way this was going to keep going down this path. Sometimes that’s not a good thing, as was evident by the immediate three-pointer missed by the guard. No matter. That was just the warmup.
Smart makes a steal, passes to Jayson Tatum for an alley-top. Smart takes a charge. Smart drives to the hoop for a layup. Two possessions later Smart outruns two Raptors for another lay-in. Celtics lead.
Then there was crunch-time with that block with one minute to go. The block. One of the most important blocks in Celtics history.
All of it made you immediately forget Smart’s bizarre 10-foot runner that sailed over the backboard earlier the game. That’s how it works.
How do you explain Marcus Smart? He’s the guy who usually isn’t going to let his team loose.
But there is still that matter of finding a comp for the player. People need the visual to complete the package. That exercise only builds on the frustration.
Is there another player who has done such important things in so many key moments while leaving very little trace on the stat sheet.
Dennis Johnson. Dustin Pedroia. Patrice Bergeron. Nope. Nope. Nope. All are in the conversation, but not exactly what we’re looking for.
The closest? Probably Troy Brown.
A punt return. A block. A catch. If he was on the field, hope was never lost. Perhaps the best example of a Smart-esque play on a football field came when Troy Brown stripped Marlon McCree in the Patriots’ divisional round playoff game against the Chargers 2006. All hope was seemingly lost after McCree picked off Tom Brady with just more than six minutes to go and San Diego leading by eight. But Brown found a way.
How do you explain Marcus Smart? He’s the guy who finds a way.
Go ahead, try Googling “most unique athletes” to find a better answer. What you’ll get is a bunch of off-the-court/field/ice personalities whose presence in the search has little to do with how they actually play their respective game.
Who knows how we will view Smart a week from now once this Eastern Conference Finals get rolling. But that’s the beauty of his player’s existence. He keeps us on our toes, making more people swallow more more words than perhaps anyone we’ve ever witnessed.
How do you explain Marcus Smart?
You don’t. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.