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Boston Celtics' representatives Jaylen Brown (left),  Kemba Walker (center), and Marcus Smart (right) at an early Team USA camp practice in Las Vegas. Photo via Ethan Miller
The news came out yesterday that USA head coach Gregg Popovich has selected his team captains for the FIBA World Cup in China this fall, and Celtics fans couldn't be happier.
The first of the three captains is the Celtics' newest All-NBA point guard Kemba Walker, who has been the leader on this roster since the training camp started a few weeks back. In their first two scrimmages against Spain and Australia, Walker has averaged 17 points, 4.5 assists, and 6 rebounds in just about 24 minutes of playing time. He has also shot a solid 45% from the field, which comes from his ability to be almost unstoppable from anywhere on the court.
At 29 years old (second to only Brook Lopez as the oldest on the team), Walker is one of the more experienced players on the relatively young Team USA roster and it shows both on and off the court. This combined with his natural leadership abilities makes him the most obvious option for one of the three leadership roles available.

The second Celtic to get a captain position for Team USA is somehow both extremely surprising but not surprising at all, Marcus Smart. The news comes at a very ironic time for Celtics fans, as this past week there has been a lot of talk through social media as to whether or not Smart should be chosen as the first official captain of the Boston Celtics since Rajon Rondo in 2014 (and the answer is obviously yes). It is also a bit ironic in that just a few weeks back, Smart held a photoshop contest with weird Celtics Twitter in which he was photoshopped as the new Captain America, so there's that.
Coming off of an All-NBA defensive first team season as well as a pretty serious oblique tear, Marcus Smart came into the Team USA training camp excited and ready to compete. A few sources including Team USA assistant coach Steve Kerr shared that in just his first couple of days at camp, Smart proved to be one of the more impressive players there. But with minor injury concerns appearing in primarily his calf, Marcus decided to play it safe and sit out for as long as it took for him to make a full 100% recovery.

Despite this, Smart never pulled out of the camp entirely and still stuck around the team for support and to build chemistry as time went on. Throughout that time he has managed to make it through a couple of roster cuts despite not even being able to participate at the moment, and with one or two spots still left to be trimmed off it doesn't look like Smart is going anywhere.

While many may think it's ridiculous to give a team captain spot to a guy who has barely played throughout the camp any Celtics fan knows EXACTLY why he was awarded the title. Smart has an undeniable and unique passion that every championship team needs in order to succeed at the highest level. He has a devotion and grit unlike any other and is willing to sacrifice literally anything for the success of his team, including his body. Not to mention his elite-level defense born from his extremely high effort level that many individual players just don't care about in today's NBA.
So while the selection of Smart might be a surprise due to his injury concerns, Gregg Popovich of all people knows that there are only so many players like Smart in our league and in a year when most of the NBA all-stars pulled out of participation in the camp, they're lucky to have him there in the first place.

The last of the three chosen as captain was Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. At just 22 years old, the explosive scoring guard is easily one of the better and more consistent players for Team USA, perhaps only second to Kemba Walker himself. After his extremely impressive rookie season in 2017-2018, Mitchell made a name for himself as one of the foundational players for the future of the NBA.
During his time playing for Team USA, he has been one of the more energetic and passionate people out there. Any footage that comes out of the camp shows him, in particular, attempting to get his teammates as engaged and focused on the game as possible (something a lot of players need reminders of sometimes). This combined with his consistently solid play in their two scrimmages makes him one of the more legitimate options on the team to take on a leadership role.

It is disappointing to not see a guy like Jayson Tatum chosen for one of these positions, but we can't really argue or complain about the results. We already have two Celtics as captains and all three guys have earned the titles they have been awarded in their own way. Besides, I wouldn't be surprised if Tatum was the immediate runner up in the conversation as he's been extremely impressive playing in both games and practices despite not even starting.
Celtics teammates Kemba Walker (left) and Jayson Tatum (right) at a Team USA practice earlier this summer. Photo via Andrew D. Bernstein 
While I can't deny those who might think being named captain is nothing more than a title, I think it's good to reward and acknowledge someone who doesn't shy away from a leadership position and succeeds at it, as it is not something anyone and everyone can do it.

Just look at the Celtics last season. The roster attempted to follow a guy who wanted to be a leader and wanted to run his own team but just frankly was not very good at it, like at all, in every way you could imagine.  So acknowledging the people who can take on that role and succeed needs to be taken more seriously throughout the league in general.

Anyways, let's hope that Team USA ends up benefiting from their selection of captains who seem to be natural leaders in all of their own ways. And let's also hope that the Celtics take note from this and grant Marcus Smart the official title as captain of the Boston Celtics, as I believe having him as the distinct guy to look towards as a leader would improve our chemistry and overall play together immensely.

Team USA's next scrimmage will be a rematch against the Australian Boomers this Saturday at MARVEL Stadium in Melbourne,  Australia. Due to the time difference, the game will take place at 12 am on the east coast of the United States.

You can follow Thomas Desmond on Twitter @td_654.

Thomas Desmond 8/23/2019 12:58:00 PM Edit
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