Although he won't be competing in the Orlando Summer League, Jared Sullinger has been practicing with the Boston Celtics' summer league squad, and gave rave reviews on Marcus Smart's defensive abilities.
"Marcus’ last name pretty much says it all about him on the basketball court. He’s smart, he plays well. He’s a very, very tough defender. And that was real shocking to me," Sullinger said after Wednesday's morning session. “I really didn't watch a lot of college basketball, but you see a lot of highlights on SportsCenter. He was always up there but they never said anything about his defensive ability."
Sullinger must not pay attention to draft experts, all of whom lauded Smart’s physicality and defensive intensity.
"I think the biggest thing that shocked me the most – everybody said how good of an offensive player he is – defensively he's just as good,” said the power forward, who is practicing with the summer leaguers but currently does not intend to play games. “I think that’s a great attribute that he has, and the way he competes. He doesn't let loose balls get away from him. He's diving on loose balls, he’s trying to take charges, he’s doing it all."
With Avery Bradley signing a 4 year/$32 million contract with Boston yesterday, we will most likely be seeing a lot of tenacious and gritty defense from the Celtics; backcourt this season, which could could make things exciting. In fact, Smart has compared himself to Bradley already, deeming that he is "physical, athletic, can defend one, two or three spots, and does whatever the coach asks him to do." However, Sullinger wants to see a little more from Smart before he can start making the Bradley comparisons:
“Oh, I can’t give him that,” the power forward said. “He’s got some guys he has to guard first before I can compare him to Avery. Give him about 15 games and then you can ask that question again.”
For those wondering whether we will see Smart playing more of a point guard or shooting guard role for the Celtics, assistant coach Jay Larranaga says they are currently focusing on developing Smart's play at the 1:
“We want him to get comfortable at the point guard,” Larranaga said. “With three days of practice, and just getting guys familiar with the limited sets that we’re using, (we) let him play the point the first two days. He and Phil will probably play together some. They’re two of our better players and you don’t want to have one of your best players sitting on the bench. So we’ll try to get the best players out there. He and Phil are both such unselfish players and team-oriented guys that having them together I think will be a good thing.”
The coach added: “Phil and Marcus have been really good over these first two practices. They’re both tremendously competitive people. I think they’re pushing each other which is a great thing. Obviously with Rajon (Rondo) as well, that gives us three highly competitive players with the potential to impact the game at the defensive end. Hopefully (guard depth) will be a strength for us in summer league as well as during the season.”
Guard depth definitely seems like it will be a strong suit for Boston this season. Let's just hope that Danny Ainge will add some depth at the center position as well.
Photo: USA Today Danielle Hobeika 7/03/2014 11:59:00 AM Tweet Edit