Smart's relentlessness and ferocity are contagious
The above photo tells it all. We seem to see Marcus Smart in a horizontal position as much as vertical. This type of player does not come along often. This story is about two Celtics, Marcus Smart and Dave Cowens. Red Auerbach loved this type of player, and so does Danny Ainge. Red had Dave and Danny has Marcus. This is a statement about Cowens that also applies to Smart (per BasketballOnSteroids' Neil Beldock):
If he played against your team, you hated him…….If he played for your team, you loved him……Dave Cowens played basketball the way Smokin’ Joe Frazier fought; He was relentless and never stopped coming at you!!
We have watched Smart's relentless play since he joined the team. He doesn't dive on the floor for a loose ball just for effect, losing the battle because it is just too difficult. We don't see this relentlessness very often in NBA players. Every team needs a Marcus Smart. We need him. I have not seen this level of passion since Cowens' days in Boston. Here is the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan's take on Cowens dashing/sliding/fighting pursuit of a loose ball in a playoff game against the Milwaukee Bucks:
Each play tells us a lot about the man who made it. I just want to make sure Dave Cowens gets full credit. That play should run on a continuous video on top of his tombstone the day he is laid to rest.
There are many parallels between Smart and Cowens. The ability to guard any players on the court is foremost. I am convinced that Marcus can guard any player of any size. So could Dave. Cowens was known for doing a great job guarding the big men of the time, including Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. And he could switch and effectively cover small guards. Dave had great quickness.
Another common trait is never giving up on a play. Below there are two videos, one of each player making relentless, never-give-up defensive plays. They don't just go to the floor and stop fighting when things don't work out right away. Not these two. You will see the similarities I am discussing. Dave and Marcus just go to the job, work their butts off and never seem to complain. That has true value.
When I watched the Celtics take on the Philadelphia 76'ers in exhibition, the following play made a huge impression on me. This is a description of the Smart play (no pun) from the above video. It is via NBA's Taylor C. Snow, and I love the portion, "...Smart remained latched onto the rock like a cobra that had just captured its dinner." That is great.
For example, there was a play near the end of the third quarter when 76ers big man Richaun Holmes grabbed a defensive rebound, but he did not even have the opportunity to pass the ball or put it on the floor because Smart immediately lunged for it. Holmes attempted to maintain possession, but Smart remained latched onto the rock like a cobra that had just captured its dinner.
Smart eventually wrestled the ball out of Holmes’ grip and then dove on top of it as it bounced toward the free throw line. JJ Reddick attempted to pounce on the loose ball as well, but Smart slithered away and pushed it off to Terry Rozier, who then dished the rock to Guercshon Yabusele for an alley-oop layup that gave Boston an 85-78 lead.
Wikipedia describes a wolverine as having "a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size". Sound like Marcus? You bet. I know Danny is always looking to make trades, and he makes good ones. But I would hate to see Marcus leave the Celts. You can't play all out like he does and not have it rub off on at least some team mates. He sets the example. The others need to follow.
Auerbach knew that the ferocious play of Dave Cowens was infectious. Danny and Brad Stevens realize Marcus' ferocity will produce the same result. It would have taken a transcendent super star to pry Dave away from Red. I hope Danny Ainge feels the same about Marcus.
Photo via Charles Krupa/Associated Press
Cowens video via The NBAShowtime
Smart video via G4NBAVideoHD