Summer school: A primer to Celtics summer league

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WALTHAM, Mass. -- Marcus Smart admitted he was a bit surprised when the Boston Celtics selected a pair of guards with their two first-round picks in last month's draft.

"At first I was just like, ‘Wow, another guard,’" Smart said this week as the Celtics dove into two-a-day summer league practices in advance of appearances in the Utah Jazz and Las Vegas Summer Leagues.

"In my mind, I’m trying to count up how many guards we have. I’m like, ‘I don’t know, man.' Obviously, people were calling me -- looking on social media, [his friends said]: ‘Well, they got another guard, isn't this the same draft as last year? Somebody is getting traded!’ My family is asking me, ‘What’s going on?’ And I’m telling them, just calm down ... relax, everything is going to be OK.'"

Smart said he had talked with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge before the draft and felt confident the team wasn't trying to move him, even while the team made no secret of its desire to move up in the draft. To be safe, Smart's agent phoned the Celtics' front office for reassurance.

Smart laughs off the logjam at guard now. It helps when you're near the top of that pack. His focus now is on being the leader of Boston's inexperienced summer squad. Even at just 21 years old, he has embraced a leadership role, suggesting that it's on him and fellow sophomore James Young -- as the only returning veterans -- to help the new faces understand the team's culture and what it's trying to accomplish.

After starting 38 games last season, contributing to the Celtics' second-half surge and landing on the NBA All-Rookie second team, Smart will use summer league to continue his maturation at point guard, with Boston hoping it can give him more control of the offense this season (this after Evan Turner shared much of the ball-handling responsibilities last season).

As Smart said of his primary goal this summer, "Just pretty much running the team and being able to control the game as a point guard."

Boston needs Smart to feel comfortable in the pick-and-roll game and attacking the basket. His shot was streaky at times, but he dispelled the pre-draft notion that his shooting was a major concern. The Celtics so desired to get both Smart and first-round pick Terry Rozier minutes at point guard that Phil Pressey was initially held off the summer roster. He joined the team Friday, but hinted he'll play only sparingly while traveling with the team. Pressey's contract is set to become fully guaranteed on July 15.

The Celtics open play in the four-team Jazz Summer League on Monday and compete in three games in four days before shuffling up to Sin City for an extended stay at the Vegas Summer League. Boston's summer squad has been overshadowed by the start of free agency this week, but here's everything you need to know about the summer squad.


Boston's summer squad is highlighted by two returning players (last year's first-round picks in Smart and Young), its four 2015 draft picks (first-round picks Rozier and R.J. Hunter and second-round picks Jordan Mickey, and Marcus Thornton), 2013 second-round pick and recent overseas stash Colton Iverson and an assortment of undrafted and unsigned free agents looking to play their way onto an NBA roster.


The Celtics play three games in Utah from July 6-9, then three more games (plus a playoff tournament) in Vegas from July 11-20. The team's full schedule can be found HERE.


An incomplete list of what we'll be focusing on early in summer league:

Street Smart: How aggressive is Smart attacking the basket and facilitating for his teammates? Don't judge Smart's summer on his stat line; this is a rare chance for him to work on his point guard skills outside the pressure of regular-season games.

All Aboard the James Young Hype Train: Young, the 17th overall pick last season, has packed on the weight -- he said he's up to 220 pounds -- and is eager to show the strides made behind the scenes in the D-League last season (and in the weight room since the season ended). There's a lot of optimism in the Celtics' organization that Young could make a leap to important rotation player this season. Remember, he's still only 19 years old (and the youngest player on the Celtics' summer squad by 13 months).

Hello, rookies: Summer league will offer us the first indication of how ready Boston's rookies are to compete for roles this season. Rozier will be in the spotlight, with some fans believing he must justify being the No. 16 overall pick. If Hunter shoots the ball well, Celtics fans will be clamoring for him to see minutes on a team that needs more shooting. Mickey has the athleticism (and rim protection) that should help him compete for a backup role. Thornton is likely bound for the D-League or overseas, but this is a chance to showcase his shooting prowess before he goes underground to tune his game.

Third Time's the Charm?: Colton Iverson is back for his third summer with the Celtics after spending the past two seasons overseas in Turkey and Spain. The 26-year-old is the only player on the roster born in the '80s and is six years older than Young. Working against him, too, is Boston's now-overcrowded roster. But the 7-foot Iverson isn't letting it wear on him and believes he's improved his game the past two years. The Celtics need pure size, and Iverson must put his best foot forward to earn consideration.

Best of the Rest: Texas forward Jonathan Holmes was one of the most intriguing players not drafted last month. Like Iverson, a crowded roster is working against him, but things could loosen up if Boston explores the trade market. ... Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga is leading the Celtics' summer squad in Utah, then passes the baton to fellow assistant Micah Shrewsberry in Vegas. Stevens has said he didn't want to burn out Larranaga, who has helmed the summer team in recent seasons and also coached internationally during the offseason.