The Marcus Smart tug-of-war is about to begin

Marcus Smart will become a restricted free agent on July 1st if he and the Celtics can't reach an agreement. Count me as one who is concerned.

When has such a crummy and erratic shooter gained such love and devotion from Boston fans? K. C. Jones was the only Celtic that stood out to me with a career 38.7% on field goals and 7.4 points per game. Even defensive whiz Don Chaney shot a decent career-44% on field goals.

A picture can be worth a thousand words, as does the photo at the top of this article. It is from Game Five of this year's playoff series versus the Milwaukee Bucks. Marcus meets Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim and cleanly blocks his alley-oop attempt while Boston gains possession of the ball.

That one play dispels any credible discussions of size mismatches with Smart on defense. It was 6'11" against 6'4", and the "little" guy won, matching the Greek Freak's elevation and pairing it with perfect timing and execution.

I have always marveled at the dogged defense of K. C., Bill Russell and Dennis Johnson, but I have never witnessed the absolute defensive ferocity of Marcus Smart. His defense is his identity, and he knows it.

Danny Ainge always regretted allowing another defensive-minded player, Tony Allen, to walk in free agency. There are similarities between Allen and Smart, but shooting accuracy is not one of them. Tony shot a career-47.5% from the field.

Marcus will most likely end up with a salary in the 10-14 million/year range. I truly believe that the Celtics want to keep him, and he wants to stay. But the lure of more money or a starting gig may entice him away. The departures of both Tony Allen and Ray Allen have taught Danny to pay attention to key players in free agency. Ainge should match any reasonable offer, but a more-lofty presentation by the right organization could end Marcus' stint in Bean-Town. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Charles Krupa/AP Photo