NBC Sport’s Boston’s A. Sherrod Blakely recently wrote that Marcus Smart should be named the Boston Celtic’s captain ahead of the 2019-20 NBA season. But Blakely couldn’t be more wrong. Smart is a far cry from captain material, not for the Boston Celtics, anyway.
Antoine Walker, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo… Marcus Smart? Aside from Smart, these are the last three members of the Boston Celtics to have been named team captain. Each has made at least three All-Star appearances, and at times, has unquestionably been the best player on his team. You have to go back about twenty years to find the last instance of a Celtics player being named captain but not meeting these standards. That was when Dana Barros had been a co-captain to Walker.
But what’s even more telling about what it takes to be named captain of the Boston Celtics is the list of players who have not been a captain over the course of the team’s recent history. The most notable snubs include players of such high standing as Kevin Garnett and Isaiah Thomas.
And if the King in the Fourth was not good enough to be named captain… if Kevin freakin’ Garnett was not named a captain, then what business does anyone have suggesting Smart ought to be?
Any amount of discussion seriously trying to suggest Smart is qualified to be the Celtics’ next captain boils down to just one thing: Smart-love run amok.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We all love Marcus Smart. And there’s a reason he’s been able to endear himself to the Boston Celtics fanbase and media. His tenacious defense and tireless effort go unmatched. But overrating him is something Celtics fans and media have been guilty of on more than one occasion. And this represents just the latest, most blatant example.
Shame on you, Sherrod. Shame on you.
To Smart’s credit, he does offer captain-type effort on every single play, and likely in all of his individual and the team’s workouts/practices, too.
But a player’s “give-a-crap” level, however high it may be, is not enough to make him a deserving captain. That is especially true for the Boston Celtics.
Disqualifying Smart are the boorish, bullying way he conducts himself, both on and off the floor, and his overall lack of talent as compared with the Celtics’ captains from yesteryear.
Your captain should lead by example in all facets of the game. While it would greatly benefit the Celtics if, for example, Romeo Langford (the youngest, perhaps most impressionable member of the team) followed Smart’s example as it pertains to his effort, do Celtics fans want Langford following Smart’s example as it relates to, say, his shot selection?
Over the course of his short career, Smart has already driven even his most ardent supporters crazy by taking bad shots, too many shots, and taking some of them at the most inopportune of times — too early on in the shot clock, and while better shooters are wide-open.
Until this past season, Smart’s shooting habits and the results had been so appalling that, statistically speaking, he had been one of the worst shooters in NBA history. Yet, Smart stubbornly continued to shoot the ball as if he were one of the best.
You might chalk it up to selfishness. You might attribute it to a simple lack of self-awareness. But one thing’s clear: this is no example worth following. Not for anyone. Not ever.
Smart also must learn to better control his emotions. Passions run high in professional sports. But we wouldn’t welcome seeing Langford (again, following Smart’s example) act as though he was about to physically attack Jaylen Brown, and ultimately need to be restrained, the next time Brown makes some small on-court mistake, would we? Of course not.
Then there’s the issue of how Smart attempts to draw foul calls which aren’t there instead of taking the shot or making the play available to him, thus drawing the lingering ire of referees across the league.
If, in addition to Smart, the youngest players on this Celtics roster go on to develop reputations as some of the NBA’s most notorious “floppers,” I wonder if the Boston Celtics will ever again receive a favorable call from the refs, whereas at this point they would surely have come to despise the team.
Even the most delusional of “green-teamers” would be hard-pressed in denying Smart is indeed one of the league’s worst floppers — or best, I suppose, depending on how you look at it.
But if there just so happens to be one or two of you out there, to whom it might come easily, I’d challenge you to do the following: go to Youtube, and then type in the name “Marcus Smart.” Then, take quick look at what pops up in the search suggestions…
The very first result will be, and I quote, “Marcus Smart flop.”
The very first one, Celtics fans!
So while amongst the Boston Celtics’ fanbase, Smart is best known for his aforementioned tough defense and great hustle, across the basketball universe, he’s best known for being a phony.
Smart’s not a good enough overall player to be the Celtics’ captain, either. Having what was unquestionably his best season last year, he averaged just nine points, four assists, and three rebounds a game. While these numbers, coupled with Smart’s defensive excellence, represent important team contributions, must I remind you we are talking about the winningest franchise in the history of the NBA? The Boston Celtics boast a league-leading 17 championships. Is a player with the talent of a role-player truly qualified to lead as its captain? To do so when neither Garnett nor Thomas had?
Unfortunately, the grating personality of Smart is also a non-starter. Teammates have to want to rally around their captain. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I can’t imagine Smart’s teammates enjoy when he makes statements to the media such as, “I have a very high basketball IQ, and I try to put my wisdom on these guys,” as Smart did when he spoke with Jared Greenberg on the sidelines during team USA’s recent victory over Spain’s national team. Smart was commenting on reports of his being “vocal” during Team USA’s much talked about scrimmage losses to the “select team,” a group comprised mostly of G-leaguers and over-seas players.
Smart’s vocal presence certainly did not do Team USA any favors in those scrimmages, seeing as, again, the team lost both of them to a collection of guys not good enough to make a NBA roster.
Furthermore, what basketball-intelligence derived “wisdom” would Smart have to impart on 29 year old, three-time NBA All-Star, an All-NBA-er, and two-time NBA Sportsmanship Award recipient, Kemba Walker?
Or even a 31-year-old league veteran, former All-Star, and a player who attended Stanford University, in Brook Lopez?
While the two are admittedly not the most accomplished or winningest players in the league, both are by no means inexperienced rookies, in search of guidance, or Smart’s “wisdom.”
The truth of the matter is, if Kyrie Irving had made such silly, self-aggrandizing comments — as Irving has been known to do on more than one occasion — we wouldn’t hesitate for one second to criticize them.
All other considerations aside, a captain must be a fundamentally indispensable member of your team. A player whom your front office wouldn’t consider trading while in the prime of his career. Smart’s name, however, has come up in trade rumors every single season dating back to his rookie year, as was outlined in a previous article of mine.
You don’t trade your team’s captain while he’s in his early twenties, at the height of his basketball powers. Period.
Unless Smart finds himself similarly situated to Terry Rozier, playing on a bad to middling team, one going nowhere quickly, he’s not going to be named anyone’s team captain.
And that’s the way it should be, Boston Celtics fans.
(Am I being too hard on A. Sherrod and Smart? Are you one of those shameless green-teamers who does think Smart would make a good captain for the Cs? Let me hear from you in the comments section. Thanks for reading.)