With training camp less than a month away, Marcus Smart has already been spotted at the Celtics practice facility getting prepared for the upcoming season.
Since a run to the NBA Finals that ended in a six-game series loss to the Golden State Warriors, Smart has continued to heal from any lingering postseason injuries such as a sprained right ankle and a right thigh ailment that keep him from missing games against the Miami Heat (East finals) and Milwaukee Bucks (semifinals).
Smart, who spoke to CLNS Media's Bobby Manning at a pop-a-shot even in Allston, MA this past week for his YoungGameChanger Foundation, talked about getting plenty of rest during the summer after coming off a deep playoff run, as he's entering his ninth year in Boston.
"My ankle is feeling better, it's still healing, so I'm dealing with that," Smart said Saturday afternoon. "Just giving it as much rest as I can, but definitely back on the court. I'm definitely back into the action. It feels like yesterday we just started playing, we haven't really missed a beat, but I'm definitely doing everything I can to be ready for next season and to go deeper. I'm pretty close [to 100%], obviously it's September, you don't want to be in June, July, May shape right now so I'm trying not to go too crazy, but I'm really close and I've been doing this going into my ninth season. So for me, I know exactly what I need and what I need to get myself ready so I'll so be there."
While Smart's four-year contract extension he signed prior to the 2021-22 campaign is set to kick in this season, he wasn't mentioned nearly as much in trade rumors during the summer than his All-Star teammate Jaylen Brown was in a rumored package for Kevin Durant.
Once Durant rescinded his trade request, Smart says he worked out with Brown in Los Angeles following reports that the Brooklyn Nets were not moving their franchise player. Smart echoed the same sentiments that Grant Williams shared recently when it came to being in contact with Brown during the trade rumors, along with Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens and head coach Ime Udoka.
"[Brown's] handled it great," Smart said. "He walks around with a smile on his face. We actually haven't even mentioned it when we were together. We were just talking about the upcoming season and getting ourselves ready, but he's great. He’s handling it as professionally as he can and my advice is, to anybody, don't forget it's a business first. When you're doing business, personal stuff has to go out the window and can't be the issue, so you can't look at it like that. If your name is up there in trade talks, I look at it as a compliment. It means teams want you. That's a good thing. The problem is if your name is not [in rumors], nobody wants you. So that's how I'm looking at it and that's how people should look at it. It's tough, I understand it, but just because it's going on, you never know. Anything can happen."
Despite the Durant-for-Brown trade saga coming to an end, the Celtics were in the headlines again once news went viral that newly acquired Danilo Gallinari suffered a torn ACL while playing for Italy in a FIBA World Cup qualifier last weekend.
Gallinari's knee injury was initially ruled a torn meniscus, before further evaluations by the Celtics medical staff revealed that the veteran forward indeed had a torn ACL and could be out anywhere from six month to a year.
"I haven't talked to him I've been doing a lot, but [I was] definitely keeping up with him," Smart said. "You never want to see anybody get hurt, let alone on your team, but anybody. Somebody like Gallo who's coming in and was going to help us tremendously, it definitely pushes us back a little bit, but it's the NBA, we're professionals, we have other guys on the roster and it's time for them to step up."
Still, whether the Celtics replace Gallinari with another veteran such as Carmelo Anthony or give players within the roster like Sam Hauser an opportunity, the goal remains the same of winning banner 18 -- even if a return to the Finals isn't guaranteed.
"You hear it all the time, it's a lesson, but it's tough when you've got to take the lesson the hard way," Smart said. "We have to take the lesson the hard way. We learned a lot out of our experience and unfortunately we had to lose to do that, but we now know what it takes to play, to be there, the stress it takes on you, mentally, physically, emotionally. You kind of figure when and when not to be too excited about it, how to play it and how to keep yourself calm. It was a lot of factors that we've learned individually and as a group from this … it's tough to have to learn the hard way … it's still fresh for us, so guys are really just trying to wait, but once we do start talking, we'll get that out there, but right now we're just giving ourselves a break."
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Smart and Eastern Conference champion Celtics will host the Philadelphia 76ers on opening night of the 2022-23 regular season.
Photo used courtesy of Getty Images
Photo used courtesy of Getty Images