Smart stories: Number, pressure, position

WALTHAM, Mass. -- A handful of nuggets about Boston Celtics' top draft pick Marcus Smart after rookie introductions on Monday at the team's practice facility:


Celtics rookies always have a difficult time picking out a number given all the retired digits in Boston. The task was even more daunting for Smart given his desire to maintain a tribute to one of his older brothers.

All of the Smart brothers wore No. 3 in high school, but that number had been retired by Oklahoma State after a plane carrying players and staff members crashed and killed 10 in 2001. Smart elected to wear No. 33, which was the age of his older brother, Todd, when he passed away from cancer in 2004.

With Nos. 33 (Larry Bird) and 3 (Dennis Johnson) retired in Boston, Smart had to get creative for his NBA digit. He picked the 3 to honor his brother and the 6 for his draft position. Smart stands to become the only player other than Shaquille O'Neal to wear that jersey for Boston during a regular-season game.

"[Todd is] one of my biggest inspirations. He’s my motivation every day," said Smart. Later he added, "The thing is, he never really allowed you to feel sorry for him. Every time he saw me, he put a smile on his face. If you didn’t know who he was and what he was going through, you would never know that he was going through pain and struggling. But he did tell me, never take any days for granted, because as quickly as it was given to you, it can be taken away just as fast."


Smart's mother, Camellia, said she missed only a couple of Smart's college games during his time at Oklahoma State. Camellia undergoes dialysis three times per week after losing a kidney 25 years ago and was hospitalized in February when he shoved a fan during a game against Texas Tech. Her reaction watching from afar?

"No, Marcus, no!" explained Camellia, wearing a Celtics T-shirt with "Smart" emblazoned on the back. "And my nurse said, 'Mrs. Smart, we might have to turn the TV off because your blood pressure is rising.' I said, ‘You’ve got to get out of this room because I’ve got to see what’s going on.'

"I called [Marcus] and got ahold of him and the first thing he said was, ‘I’m sorry, mama. I’m sorry.’ I said, ‘What’s wrong with you? What is your problem?’ He just kept saying, ‘I know I was wrong. I know.’ [I said], ‘Yes, you know you were wrong. Very wrong.’ But he learned from it. Real fast. I told him, talk is cheap. Just smile and put your hands up. You can walk away and let it come in one ear and go out the other."


Smart said he could recall playing against Kelly Olynyk during his freshman season at Oklahoma State, though the memory isn't exactly fond.

"We lost by 1, actually. It was crazy, because we had the game won," said Smart. "Kelly was in foul trouble but he came back in during the second half with six minutes left and he went off. We still had the game won. It was like 10 seconds left, me versus him, 1-on-1, cleared it out, got the foul. I went to the free-throw line, missed both free throws. I was like an 80-percent free-throw shooter at the time. I was 5-for-5 [to that point] and I missed both. They go down, knock down both of their free throws, he hits a 3 and they win by one."

The two haven't crossed paths since that game, but will probably do so in the coming days. A reporter joked that Olynyk probably won't even bring up the game.

"I’m sure he will," Smart said with a laugh.


The scouting reports suggest Smart is a point guard at the NBA level, but he downplayed the notion that he's pegged for one position.

"See, that’s the thing, I wasn’t really considered a true point guard when coach [Travis] Ford recruited me [at Oklahoma State]," said Smart. "He was kinda just like, ‘We need a point guard. I think you can play point guard, so let’s put him at the point guard spot.’ I’m comfortable at any of the guard spots. I’m not one of those guys where I need to play point guard or I need to play this position. Whatever coach [Brad] Stevens and his coaching staff and the team needs me to play is what I’m going to play."

Stevens said they'll experiment with Smart playing both the point and shooting guard spots at summer league. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has said he envisions a potential three-guard rotation with Smart, Rajon Rondo, and Avery Bradley splitting the lion's share of backcourt minutes.