For a large chuck of the season so far, Boston's ex-No. 36 Marcus Smart has been watching from the sidelines due to a ankle injury he sustained back in November against the L.A. Lakers. It was the most contests he has missed successively since early 2021. On that particularly occasion it was a calf strain that kept him out.
It all still feels a little strange. No more green hair. No more passionate defensive stands led by the former Oklahoma State star on the parquet floor. Instead, it's in the color blue that he is making his impact known.
Since he returned to the lineup the day after Christmas, the ex-Celtics' heart and soul has competed in two games, one with Ja Morant, and one without. You can probably guess which one Memphis won. In Smart's 52-plus minutes since coming back into the Grizzlies' lineup, he has given C's fans flashbacks. Particularly, in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Pelicans a few days ago.
He didn't make a single shot in the first three quarters of that contest. That didn't stop him from hoisting threes without any thought behind it. Classic No. 36. Not only did he catch fire in the final 12-plus minutes in the Big Easy, his intelligence defensively saved Taylor Jenkins' team from ending a three-game winning streak.
The 29-year-old amassed six stocks, five of which were steals. Two of them came in winning time. Altering games defensively. That is what Smart does. Boston fans know all too well what that looks like. The only man insane enough to take a charge on a 280 pound man is Smart. It was like the good ole days when he was absorbing the contact from another star in crunch time, James Harden.
Last night on the road against the defending champions, the Texas native was still productive despite a blowout defeat. He finished with the team-high in plus/minus and assists with five. The only starter that shot more efficiently from the field than Smart was the man that is slated to make over $34 million next season, Desmond Bane.
Marcus Smart has been quite the difference-maker right out of the gate after an injury that kept him out for more than a month
Jenkins is still finding out the rotation given how deep the Grizzlies are at the guard position. No matter how many minutes he does get, you can almost guarantee Smart is going to make them quality ones. The former Celtic also knows what it is like to begin a campaign struggling. Remember the 2021/22 season? No. 36 has that knowledge, potentially using it to assist in bringing a talented ball club out from under the .500 mark.
With Kristaps Porzingis regularly putting on a clinic in the low post, especially last night against the Pistons, there should be little regret in the offseason trade, at least for now. Seeing Smart do his thing, even in a different uniform should make every Boston fan smile. Though he is physically a member of a Western Conference outfit, his desire, heart, and passion will forever be a piece of Boston sports lore.