Marcus Smart is hungry to improve on promising rookie year with Celtics

In Adam Himmelsbach's revealing Boston Globe piece, Marcus Smart sits down for an interview and discusses his rookie season with the Boston Celtics. The common themes that Smart comes back to throughout are his shortcomings. It may come off as focusing on the negative to some, but I think it really reveals his competitiveness, his hunger to improve, and how high of a standard he personally holds himself to.

My aim here is to remind fans (and Smart) how much we appreciated his effort and production in his first season as a Boston Celtic, and why we are excited to see what he is capable of in not only the upcoming year, but throughout his career.

One of the biggest sources of frustration for Smart was his ankle injury, occurring on November 7th against the Indiana Pacers, which caused him to miss 10 straight games (the C's went 2-8 in those games).

“I just couldn’t get my regular explosiveness,” Smart said. “It just wasn’t the same. I never really gave it that time to heal on its own. I was always putting more pressure on it and pushing it and pushing it.”

The injury nagged him for much of the year, even after his return, and yet his defense was one of the brightest spots of an exciting Celtics season. Last I checked, ankles were pretty important on defense and this kid was competing against players both bigger and smaller while hampered with an ankle injury, more than holding his own.

Smart is also angry about not being a First-Team All-Rookie selection. In my opinion awards like that only take defense into account in the form of big men who block shots. Guard spots always go to offensive standouts. While Smart wasn't quite what you would call an offensive standout (he came into the league with a lot of question marks on how he would shoot the 3), he proved to be a serviceable marksmen shooting a respectable 33.5% from 3 with 91 makes in 67 games.

His regular season averages on offense were 7.8 points per game and 3.1 assists per game in 27 minutes per game. Not eye popping, but when you factor in his one on one defense and his 1.5 steals per game it looks a little better. If you take a look at how his numbers look per 36 minutes, where his game minutes may be heading towards should he continue to improve and garner more responsibility, you see what Smart is capable of, and also capable of surpassing. Per 36 minutes the scoring and assists rise to 10.4 and and 4.1, not bad for a rookie mostly playing for his defensive attributes.

This brings me to what got me most excited about our future with Marcus Smart, his playoff performance. His defense remained as intense and inspired as the regular season, while his scoring rose to 9.8 points per game, and 15.6 points per 36 minutes.

While Smart's biggest regret of the season was oversleeping and missing shoot around before game 4 (he lamented it being the last game of the season and not having a chance to make up for it), that is not what I will remember about his first postseason. I will remember him playing hard defense until the very end, disrupting passing lanes, playing physically, and vocally and emotionally trying to rally our group in the waning minutes of game 4.

The Celtics are far from a veteran laden squad, but Smart becoming our source of energy and leadership in an elimination playoff game as a rookie when the chips were at their lowest was very pleasing to say the least. That is what my lasting memory is of him and his rookie year. Of all things that was my favorite part of Marcus Smart's entire season.

My favorite part of Himmelsbach's piece? The fact that it was conducted at the Celtics practice facility, where Smart and assistant coach Darren Erman were working on shooting, ball-handling, defense, and the pick and roll. On two healthy ankles.

Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/The Associated Press

Follow me on Twitter @Thomp_26