Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) shoots for three points against Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart showed signs of improving his jumper last season. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – Summer is a time for rest and relaxation for many veterans in the NBA. 

But Marcus Smart, entering his third season, is taking a different approach. 

For the first time since his rookie season, he heads into the summer months fully healthy and ready to improve his game, and that means getting offensive. 

Everyone knows Smart is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. As a matter of fact, Brad Stevens considers it a luxury that he can bring Smart off the bench on occasion to replace Avery Bradley and there’s little to no drop off in “on-ball” defense. 

But it’s the offensive side that’s been a major struggle. Smart was known as an inconsistent jump shooter at Oklahoma State but considered a force who could get to the basket. In the NBA, it’s been a bit of a different story, as teams have forced him into jump shots. 

In his rookie year, Smart had respectable 3-point shooting numbers, converting 91-of-272 from beyond the arc for a 33.5 percent rate. But this past season, his numbers fell off drastically, as he went through long droughts of poor shooting, falling to 25.3 percent, an alarming number for a guard in the NBA. 

So when asked Tuesday during his camp at Brandeis what he might be focused on improving, he didn’t hesitate. 

“My shooting. Everybody knows it. I know it. I’ve been working really hard on it, and my conditioning,” Smart said. 

During one five-game stretch from March 21-31, Smart missed all 16 attempts from beyond the arc. But there was signs late in the season that he was figuring things out. 

There was the stunning win at Golden State on April 1, when he connected for a key three in the fourth quarter. He went 4-for-6 from long distance in a late season game against the Hawks. And he was 3-for-6 in the series opener in Atlanta in the playoffs. He was 5-for-12 from 3-point range in wins in Games 3 and 4. 

Now, Smart is committed to continuing that momentum. 

“It’s been good actually. I’ve been putting in a lot of work and just trying to get better, so, so far, so good. It’s been good,” Smart said. 

When he’s not working on his shot, Smart has been working with kids, showing the organization that he has the type of skills needed to make it as a leader in Boston. Smart is running his Boston YGC camp this week in Waltham at Brandeis.  

“It feels good. I just got done with my Dallas camp, and the kids there – how little I was, I used to run around, parents telling me you’ve got too much energy,” Smart said. “Just wait until you get older and you’ll see how much energy you have. And then to come here and see the kids, it’s just incredible.

“I’m actually doing another one in the Canary Islands. So that’s a blessing for me. Not many people can say I had a camp in the Canary Islands, outside of the States, only in your second year. So that’s incredible to me and I’m ecstatic about it. I can’t wait.

“The first thing that goes through my mind is this was me about ten years ago. I remember going to camps and seeing an NBA player and my eyes lit up. It’s just a good feeling to be able to put that type of excitement on the kids’ faces. I just tell them just keep working, anything’s possible. You don’t have to be biggest, strongest or athletic guy to make it. You’ve just got to work hard.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) shoots for three points against Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart showed signs of improving his jumper last season. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – Summer is a time for rest and relaxation for many veterans in the NBA. 

But Marcus Smart, entering his third season, is taking a different approach. 

For the first time since his rookie season, he heads into the summer months fully healthy and ready to improve his game, and that means getting offensive. 

Everyone knows Smart is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. As a matter of fact, Brad Stevens considers it a luxury that he can bring Smart off the bench on occasion to replace Avery Bradley and there’s little to no drop off in “on-ball” defense. 

But it’s the offensive side that’s been a major struggle. Smart was known as an inconsistent jump shooter at Oklahoma State but considered a force who could get to the basket. In the NBA, it’s been a bit of a different story, as teams have forced him into jump shots. 

In his rookie year, Smart had respectable 3-point shooting numbers, converting 91-of-272 from beyond the arc for a 33.5 percent rate. But this past season, his numbers fell off drastically, as he went through long droughts of poor shooting, falling to 25.3 percent, an alarming number for a guard in the NBA. 

So when asked Tuesday during his camp at Brandeis what he might be focused on improving, he didn’t hesitate. 

“My shooting. Everybody knows it. I know it. I’ve been working really hard on it, and my conditioning,” Smart said. 

During one five-game stretch from March 21-31, Smart missed all 16 attempts from beyond the arc. But there was signs late in the season that he was figuring things out. 

There was the stunning win at Golden State on April 1, when he connected for a key three in the fourth quarter. He went 4-for-6 from long distance in a late season game against the Hawks. And he was 3-for-6 in the series opener in Atlanta in the playoffs. He was 5-for-12 from 3-point range in wins in Games 3 and 4. 

Now, Smart is committed to continuing that momentum. 

“It’s been good actually. I’ve been putting in a lot of work and just trying to get better, so, so far, so good. It’s been good,” Smart said. 

When he’s not working on his shot, Smart has been working with kids, showing the organization that he has the type of skills needed to make it as a leader in Boston. Smart is running his Boston YGC camp this week in Waltham at Brandeis.  

“It feels good. I just got done with my Dallas camp, and the kids there – how little I was, I used to run around, parents telling me you’ve got too much energy,” Smart said. “Just wait until you get older and you’ll see how much energy you have. And then to come here and see the kids, it’s just incredible.

“I’m actually doing another one in the Canary Islands. So that’s a blessing for me. Not many people can say I had a camp in the Canary Islands, outside of the States, only in your second year. So that’s incredible to me and I’m ecstatic about it. I can’t wait.

“The first thing that goes through my mind is this was me about ten years ago. I remember going to camps and seeing an NBA player and my eyes lit up. It’s just a good feeling to be able to put that type of excitement on the kids’ faces. I just tell them just keep working, anything’s possible. You don’t have to be biggest, strongest or athletic guy to make it. You’ve just got to work hard.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Dwight Howard is next up on the Celtics’ wish list. 

Sources tell ESPN that the 30-year-old big man will sit down face-to-face with the Celtics, along with the Atlanta Hawks, as free agency begins this Friday. 

Dwight Howard is next up on the Celtics’ wish list. 

Sources tell ESPN that the 30-year-old big man will sit down face-to-face with the Celtics, along with the Atlanta Hawks, as free agency begins this Friday. 

ESPN reports that Howard is expected to meet with as many as five teams in free agency. Unlike the situation with Kevin Durant, where a return to Oklahoma City is a distinct possibility, Howard is not expect to return to Houston after turning down his $23.2 million option for next season

According to ESPN, sources say the Heat have not yet booked a meeting with Howard in free agency, but could emerge later in the process. 

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Hawks are trying to make up their mind on whether to go after Kevin Durant or consider an Al Horford-Dwight Howard front court through free agency.  

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Kevin Durant is not the only focus of the Celtics as free agency approaches. 

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Celtics will be among the teams approaching Al Horford when free agency begins on Friday. 

Apr 28, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) shoots the ball against Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) during the second half in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Al Horford is shooting for a big payday in free agency. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Kevin Durant is not the only focus of the Celtics as free agency approaches. 

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Celtics will be among the teams approaching Al Horford when free agency begins on Friday. 

The Celtics will be in for some serious competition, Stein reports.

“The Hawks, of course, face a stiff challenge in trying to retain Horford, who sources say is expected to draw free-agent interest from a number of teams, including the Lakers, Rockets, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets,” Stein writes. 

As is the case with Durant, Horford has nine years of experience. That is significant because he can command up to 30 percent of his team’s cap this year. That figure goes up to 35 percent after next season.

This has led to wide speculation that both Durant and Horford would draw “1+1 contract” this summer, allowing both to cash in again next year. A “1+1” is a one-year contract with a player option for the following season. 

Horford’s long-term role with the Hawks is unclear with the trade of Jeff Teague to the Pacers. how the Hawks are planning to build in the next few months. Should he seek a max deal this year, he can re-sign with the Hawks at five years $152 million or move and sign for four years, $112 million. If he signs a one-year deal, it would be at an estimated cost of $26.4 million.

Horford, a 6-foot-10 stretch center who can run the floor and knock down a mid-range shot, has long been rumored to be a target of Danny Ainge, including at the trade deadline this past February

Horford averaged just 12.5 points but hauled in 8.5 rebounds a game against the Celtics in Atlanta’s six-game first-round win. Horford rebounded against the Cavaliers in the second round, going for 14.8 points a game. 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Reggie Lewis passed away nearly 23 years ago, but the late Celtics star’s mom believes the team could honor his memory in an unexpected way — by giving his retired No. 35 to Kevin Durant.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

Reggie Lewis passed away nearly 23 years ago, but the late Celtics star’s mom believes the team could honor his memory in an unexpected way — by giving his retired No. 35 to Kevin Durant.

That’s according to Kevin O’Connor of CSNNE, who got Lewis’ mom, Inez Ritch, on the phone recently.

“I don’t think it would take anything from Reggie because his number is still hanging up in the Garden,” she told O’Connor. “If I see Durant running up and down the court with the No. 35, I don’t know how my emotions would be until it happens.

“I don’t think I would be upset about it. I think it would be a good thing, because he is a very nice, humble young man. I don’t know a lot about him, but I know of some of the things he has achieved while wearing the No. 35.”

The similarities between the two players are obvious, O’Connor notes, with both Lewis and Durant lanky scorers who could shoot over the top or dunk at the rim. Lewis was just entering the prime of his career when he collapsed and died in July of 1993 at age 27 while shooting baskets at Brandeis.

Durant is an All-Star and former MVP who has the Celtics on his list of six teams that he’ll meet during free agency.

Add Lewis’s retired number to the list of enticements the Celtics could potentially offer to get him in green.

Blog Author: 
John Tomase

Marcus Smart on Danny Ainge heading into free agency "He knows what he's doing" pic.twitter.com/BvO08J4rUQ

— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) June 28, 2016

WALTHAM – There was one person very happy that the Celtics didn’t pull off a trade last Thursday night during draft night. 

As one of the youngest and most talented defensive guards in the NBA, Marcus Smart was at the center of many trade rumors involving the Celtics. He knew there was a possibility that he might be dealt away as the Celtics tried to move out of the No. 3 spot and get a proven impact scorer. 

As it turned out, the Celtics and Danny Ainge didn’t pull the trigger, leaving Smart to continue his plans for another season in Celtic green. 

“I’m ecstatic to remain a Boston Celtic,” Smart beamed Tuesday at his youth basketball camp at Brandeis. “I love Boston. I love their fans. I love the organization and everything about it.” 

There was also something else that didn’t happen Thursday that played to the apparent advantage of Smart. The Celtics didn’t draft another defensive-minded guard. They chose Jaylen Brown over Kris Dunn.

“That was weird because Danny being a defensive-minded guy, so you kind of would’ve thought that was where he was going,” Smart said. “We were excited for whoever we got and we are excited with the picks that Danny has picked, and the front office and we’re ready to go.”

Smart, like Isaiah Thomas, has started to make his pitch for Kevin Durant. But there are other areas that could be addressed with as much as $62 million of cap space to play with. 

“That’s a hard question for me to answer,” Smart said. “I haven’t really paid too much attention or focus on what they should do. That’s not my job. My job is to go out there and play and I kind of leave that up to Danny and those guys. They’ve been doing this for a long time. They know what they’re doing. Whoever or whatever they do, I support it and I’m with them.”

Smart understands the frustration of Celtics fans who are hungry to see the team make big moves. 

“Definitely. We expect that next step as a team. Everybody is working on their game,” Smart added. “Everybody is ready. We text each other every day and everybody is just excited. You can see it, hear it in the voices when we talk to each other. We can’t wait to get back and just start working out with each other and get that connection again.

“I think the next step for us as a team is to just go out there and [not] worry about everybody expects from us because that’s Boston fans. They’re diehard. They’re going to be on you when you’re doing go. They’re going to be on you when you’re doing bad, and that’s why we love them, and they deserve that. They deserve to have their voice. I think, for us, it’s not to really listen to all the expectations. Just go out there and play.” 

A lot of people heard Jaylen Brown announce his arrival last week in Boston by proclaiming that he “wants to rip somebody’s head off.” Smart, who’s been known to say an aggressive thing or two on the court, just smiled Tuesday when asked about it. 

“I laugh. I like it. I like it. And I think Danny loves it,” Smart laughed. “He’s an athletic wing. The dude is a freak of nature, actually, athletic-wise. I’ve seen him play a little bit. His defense is a little scary, having that length on him. I’m excited to be able to play in the backcourt with him.” 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia