Marcus Smart signed a four-year, $52 million extension with the Celtics. There’s not much to add beyond what we’ve already covered about Smart’s value before and after last season, so we’ll him speak for himself. Here’s a transcript of his conference call with the Boston media on Friday.
How excited are you to be in a Celtics uniform for the next four years?
“Oh, man, I’m ecstatic. This is a blessing. Never in a million years did I think I would be able to play for the Boston Celtics. Growing up watching them, it’s a historic franchise that they have, and to be a part of an organization that has that winning culture is something you will never forget and always remember.”
Two-part question: What does it mean to try and win a championship with the Celtics? And with LeBron in the West and Kawhi in the East now, what will it take for you guys to get past that hurdle?
“I think we demonstrated the talent and the ability we had to do that last year, with a few missing pieces. With those missing pieces back in action, i think we’re going to be making it hard for teams. Like I said, the name of the game is winning championships, and I’m able to be on a team to have an opportunity to go down and be a part of this historic journey and this historic organization. Like I said, I’m ecstatic, and I’m ready to go. And with those missing pieces coming back, I think we have a real shot.”
Did Bill Russell or any of those guys talk to you?
“We kind of mingled. It wasn’t much of a talk. It was a, ‘Hey, keep up the good work,’ and even that goes a long way — that they took time out of their way. They didn’t have to do that, and that means everything to young guys like me who grew up watching those guys or hearing about those guys from their uncles and dads. … That just means a lot.”
Was there a point in this process where you weren’t sure you were coming back to Boston?
“At one moment, I didn’t really know what to think, to be honest, because my main focus has really been on my mom and my family. When you go through adversity or something like this in your family, it kind of puts things in perspective, and everything else kind of becomes a blur to you and really not that important. But to be honest I didn’t know where I was going to end up.
“I was just enjoying this whole process. I was taking it in and enjoying it. This is a fun thing. As frustrating as it is, it’s fun. Not many people in the world can say that they’re in talks to play for an NBA team — to make a dream become a reality and to be able to do things that they never imagined they could do. So, this whole time, even with everything that was going on, me not knowing where I was going to end up was still a fun and exciting part of it.”
What’s the latest on your mom?
“She’s doing good. She’s stable. She’s hanging in there. This is a hard time, but at the same time, this is an exciting time for my family. With the signing, it kind of brings a little joy to lighten up a situation that was a little dark and gloomy. She’s in good spirits, she’s hanging on, and as of right now, she’s doing great.”
Is there a particular part of your game you’re going to be working on this summer?
“It’s everything. Each year, I’ve expanded my game. This year, I’ve shown more of my ability to play the point guard position and be more of a playmaker. I’m just going to be working on all aspects of my game. The uniqueness about me is that I don’t do one thing perfectly or great. I do a little bit of everything. That’s what makes me so unique, so I’m just trying to master a little bit of everything and get better. If I can get better a little bit each year, then I’m doing my job.”
There are a lot of people who believe one reason why Danny wanted to keep you on the roster was as a defensive weapon against a team like Golden State in the NBA Finals. How does that make you feel when a lot of people consider you one of the more unique defensive players in the NBA?
“It’s a great feeling. I’ve always taken pride in my defense. Growing up, I was always taught defense wins championships, offense wins games. If you can’t stop nobody from scoring, then it really don’t matter how much you score, because you can’t get a stop. That’s always how I was raised, so to hear my name being talked in that aspect, it’s a great feeling and an honor. It’s a blessing for Danny and this organization to feel that strongly and have that faith in me to be that person that everyone talks about to be the defensive stopper. It’s an incredible feeling. It means a lot.”
There were some reports about the negotiations being at some points contentious and at other points gone silent. What was your perspective of the public nature of that and how did you perceive it from behind the scenes?
“This is a business, so you can’t get too high or too low on things. Obviously, if you’re not hearing it from direct sources, you’re hearing all kinds of different things from people, but for me personally I enjoyed the experience. Even though it’s a frustrating experience, it’s amazing, because not many people can experience it, and there’s a lot of people in this world who would do anything to be in my situation. So, I just tried to take that and used that as an encouragement and a motivator and a positive, not to look at it as a negative.
“It is a business, so things were perfect, and that’s why it’s called negotiating. You guys come together, and you finally agree on something. We both agreed that Boston loves me, I love Boston. Boston wants me to be here. I want to be here. I am here. So, we made it work.”
Were you a little disappointed by the free-agent market this summer?
“I knew it was going to be tough. I educated myself. I knew it was going to be tough this year, but at the same time I knew that I was going to be set, no matter what. I knew I was going to be on a team, and I was happy that it’s with Boston. Like I said, I was drafted here, I’ve been here my whole career, and I feel like I’m part of the Boston community. I feel like Boston is a second home for me, so it’s a good feeling to be here.
“It was frustrating at times, just because you didn’t know. When you don’t have any sense of what’s going on, that’s the frustrating part, but like I said, I knew no matter what happened that I was going to be OK, so they gave me that security to not really stress about anything and let things happen the way they were supposed to happen. If God wanted something to happen, it was going to happen.”
Were you at any point thinking about taking the qualifying offer and becoming unrestricted next year?
“Literally all my options were open. I didn’t know what to think. I went back and forth internally, and that’s just part of it. What better problems to have. This is one problem a lot of people wish they could be having right now. I definitely had thoughts of taking the qualifying offer, but like I said, all my options were open. I never closed anything. I just had to wait and see what God had in store for me.”
Was there a turning point or moment in time where you really began to feel confident in yourself and things seemed to make sense?
“Yeah, really this season. I lost a lot of weight last season. I changed my body. I did a lot of things. I improved my game on both ends, and I was able to help my team go deep into the playoffs and make a substantial playoff run, so my confidence was there. Obviously, this team had a lot of ups and downs, injuries and whatnot, but that shows the characteristics of a good team. Everybody can play well when things are going well. Everybody can be happy and have a good attitude when things are going well, but when things start going bad and you taste a little adversity, you really show who you really are.”
Do you think you can take the next step in terms of being a leader because now everybody knows you’re going to be around for the next four years?
“I think so. I’m one of the youngest guys on this team at the age of 24. We’ve got guys like Al, Kyrie, Gordon and Baynes who are a lot older than me and have experience. Those guys are talking to me and asking me about defensive things and, ‘How does Brad do this?’ With me being here the longest, when I do talk, those guys listen and vice versa. It means a lot to me to see those guys respect me, and I definitely think with me coming back I can use that leadership role even more and really grow that way in a leadership role. Those guys are really great with the support, so I think it’s going to be a great year, because we can learn from one another and bounce ideas off each other.”
When you’re going through this process, how much do you have to weigh having a major profile if you can sign with another team versus being a part of a collective on what could be a contending team for probably the rest of the prime of your career?
“It’s hard. It is hard. That’s the beauty of being able to live out your dream. You have hard decisions, but like I said, anybody would love to have these hard decisions to make. It’s definitely a big thing you have to think about, because as a competitor you’re always taught you want to win a championship, and you want to put yourself in the best place to do that, and the Celtics right now are one of those teams where we have a great shot to win it and to have a chance to be there to win it. It’s a great organization, a great city, and it fits me, my type of style, who I am, so I’m glad to be here.”