Marcus Smart has been challenging his teammates to 1 on 1's after practice

Marcus Smart got off to a rough start this season - missing the first few games with a ankle injury he sustained in the preseason finale, but since returning he's been a dynamic force for the Celtics off the bench. He has essentially served as the 6th-man, and is the leader of the 2nd unit. Smart is still bringing his hustle and hard-nosed defense every night, and his numbers offensively are up almost across the board from last year. He's averaging 9.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. His shooting, although slightly improved, is still suspect - he's averaging a meager 35.8% from the field. That's due in large part to his 29.5% from 3-point range, and he's averaging 5 shots per game from the outside. That's almost half of his overall 10.5 shots per game (via

Aside from his shooting woes, Smart has been a bright spot for this years Celtics team. He's been the vocal leader of that 2nd unit, and often finds himself on the court with the starters closing out games and halves. Being his 3rd season in the pros, Marcus is turning into a veteran presence on the C's, and it doesn't just show up in games. He manages to bring that same fierce competitive nature to practice, and he challenges his teammates to face off against his tenacious defense to raise their game playing 1 on 1 when practice is over:

Jaylen Brown joked about Smart and veteran swingman Gerald Green giving him a hard time calling their own fouls, but he also mentions how being challenged by those guys 1 on 1 is big in building his game:

“When I call something I can’t get it,” he said of the self-officiating when he plays Smart or Gerald Green. “When I touch them all hell breaks loose. But it makes you tough. All the cards are stacked against you.

“He never stops talking,” the rookie added of Smart. “He’s very vocal and everyone knows that. That’s one of the reasons why everybody loves Marcus Smart because he’s going to tell you how he feels whether you like it or not.”

Smart uses those games to improve his ability to get to the basket, epescially against players of different sizes. Since he often finds himself playing out of his normal position in small-ball lineups. It's also a big help to some of his bigger teammates, to get used to guarding smaller guys as well:

“I’ve been trying to attack and make my teammates better,” said Smart, who enters Monday night’s game in Miami averaging 9.8 points to go with 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. “It feels good. Everybody on that second unit is a contributor. That whole second unit has been good overall. We’ve been playing well together.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been impressed with Smart so far this season, and has often used him as a shot of adrenaline into the lineup when needed:

“Whether he comes off the bench, or starts, he plays with such great intensity,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “that you feel good that if you’re playing well it’s going to stay at that level of intensity, and if you’re not he's going to raise your energy level."

Although it's not an ideal situation, Stevens has shown again and again that he's willing to play Smart at the 3 in a smaller lineup, and Marcus has answered the call and shown he can compete with larger opponents:

“It’s obviously not ideal for him to be a (small forward). He’s not a 3, he’s a combo guard. But at the same time he’s physical and strong enough where he can match up on some guys.”

After watching Smart have a great series in the playoffs against Atlanta last season, most us expected to see a big year from Marcus this season. He's off to a good start this season, let's just get somebody in here to help with that jumper - I hear Ray Allen has a lot of free time these days.

Photo Credit - Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports

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