Are we missing the Tony Allen Factor in Marcus Smart contract negotiations?
There are a lot of parallels in the background and careers of Marcus Smart and Tony Allen, but are we forgetting one that may be very important in the attempt to sign Smart?
Both players were drafted out of Oklahoma State, and they were chosen, in large part, for their toughness and lock-down defense. Tony was picked 25th in the 2004 NBA draft and played for the Celtics for six seasons. He left in free agency in 2010 and went to the Memphis Grizzlies on a 3-year contract. Part of the reason for his departure was, as he stated (per Wikipedia), that he felt overshadowed by teammates Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Marcus was drafted at the #6 spot out of Oklahoma State in the 2014 draft. He has played four seasons in Boston, being used generally as a back-up at the guard position, the same as Tony Allen when he played for the Celtics. The Grindfather, as Tony later became known, did his job with Boston quietly and without ego, although he often made some stupefying plays that drew the ire of his coach and TV commentator, Tommy Heinsohn. Sounds a bit familiar, doesn't it.
How good a defender was Tony? None other than superstar Kobe Bryant said this about Allen (per SportingNews' Ali Joseph):"The player I had the most trouble with, individually, was Tony Allen." Bryant even gave The Grindfather some footwear (per Wikipedia):
On February 26, 2016, in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant presented Allen with an autographed pair of shoes that read "To Tony, the best defender I ever faced!".
Are we facing the same situation with Marcus? He does his job with little fanfare or ego, but he lets loose with a bone-headed move now and then, both on and off the court. Like Tony, he has huge value for Boston but is obviously overshadowed by the likes of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. And here comes recent-rookie Jayson Tatum into the spotlight, while we can't forget that Jaylen Brown started most games in his second season while fourth-year man, Smart, came off the bench.
The stalled negotiations may not only be about money. No player makes it to the NBA level without being damned good, and most probably feel that they could have more individual success with another team as a starter with more floor time. I frankly don't see that with Marcus. Allen went on to have a very good career with the Grizzlies, but his sole Championship was with Boston in 2008. He remained a ferocious defender but his career stats never jumped off the page.
I may be wrong, but I just don't envision Smart as a starting kingpin on a competitive NBA team. He currently plays starter-like minutes and a critical role on a strong contender for the Championship. This is not the time for him to acquire tunnel vision. He is loved and needed in Boston, and there is little reason for the negotiations to drag on much longer.
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Smart photo via Charles Krupa/AP Photo
Smart/Bryant Photo via Getty Images