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Exclusive: "My mom passed; they flew all the way to Dallas to the funeral; That was for real, it wasn't no tactic" - Marcus Smart on the bond he shares with teammates Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and on using his dominant vocal presence to help Celtics

Marcus Smart continues being an influential force at Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart continues being an influential force at Boston Celtics
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Jeff Skversky

Marcus Smart is not afraid to speak his mind.

Inside the Boston Celtics huddle during a timeout, he spoke up, early on in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, as Boston found themselves in early trouble against Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

Marcus Smart told his Celtics teammates that the Warriors are not the Miami Heat, and they can’t afford to play Golden State like they did in the Heat playoff series. Boston could not allow the Warriors to take uncontested threes like they did against Miami, or even in the Milwaukee series.

Marcus Smart's mentality and vocal presence brings that extra edge to Celtics

He wanted to push the Warriors' guards and shooters inside the three-point line. Smart wasn’t happy with the way his team came out on defense, as Curry fired 6 makes from deep to set a Finals record in the first quarter.

Marcus Smart spoke up, like he always has and like it has all year long it worked.

Marcus Smart just hit a three in the NBA Finals. My heart is full.

Boston came back to take the lead at the half and then blew it open with a 17-0 run late in the 4th quarter to help them take a 1-0 lead in the NBA Finals, eventually shocking the Warriors on their own floor in San Francisco.

Boston trailed by 12 to start the 4th quarter and ended up with a 12-point win.

The 24-point scoring margin in the 4th quarter tied the largest margin in any quarter of a Finals game in NBA history, and Smart had his fingerprints all over it.

The Celtics' 17-0 run was one of the longest runs over the last half-century in the NBA Finals. Marcus Smart not only scored 6 of their 17 points as he battled through an ankle injury, but his defense helped shut down Curry and the Warriors, as well as provided a vocal presence.

“You just believe in what you've been doing all year. It hasn't been our first time being down in that position, nor in this game, let alone all season”, Smart said of the changes and the point of emphasis that stressed on switching things up.

The NBA Defensive Player of the Year has been vocal all year long. He has been known to set the tone not only in games but also in practice.

Smart's leadership is a major reason the Celtics were able to turn around a horrible to start to their season as well.

How Marcus Smart the leader questioned his own teammates Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown

The Boston guard got into it with his teammates Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown after a bad loss to the Chicago Bulls back in November, when they had blown a 19-point second-half lead.

He questioned their selfishness. He also questioned their willingness to pass the ball.

“There’s only so much I can do without the ball in my hands. I’m just standing in the corner”, Smart said at the time of the frustrating situation with the Celtics.

The criticism shouldn’t be misconstrued as tension, or that Smart is a bad teammate. He wanted to win and realized how crucial it was to have Tatum and Brown elevate their game to another level.

He even specifically made a comment to Brown on the court in the first half of Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Warriors to try to get Brown to raise his game, which helped the Celtics take a half-time lead.

“But me just being me and helping my teammates in any way I can, I know what it feels like to be going through something individually and just be keeping it in or struggling with it. So I just wanted to let them know, we can express it here. We can talk about it. Whatever we need, man. We're brothers, and that's what it is”, Smart said prior to the 2022 NBA Finals.

“Whatever I can do to help my teammates, I'm going to do it. If that's talking to them, sitting down; if that's chewing them out or getting on them for something that they know we all know they should or shouldn't do, and vice versa with me. I think that's what makes our bond special”.

While Tatum struggled to put up points in Game 1, he found other ways to contribute to the Celtics' win - a point which Marcus Smart has stressed all season, including that tough night against the Bulls earlier this season when he called him out for not passing.

Tatum learned his lesson and when Golden State took away his scoring, Tatum found other ways to contribute.

Smart helped prepare Tatum for the big moment and it paid off.

Marcus Smart is only 28 years old, but in many ways he’s a coach on the floor and even on the bench as he’s not afraid to shout out encouragement to his teammates.

🔒 @smart_MS3 keeping the locker room locked in https://t.co/GbDhsq7gws

While he rested on the bench at times during game 1, Marcus Smart was there to support his team - including being a constant presence in Jayson Tatum's ear, and Celtics head coach Ime Udoka even singled him out for his efforts afterwards.

Marcus Smart wanted Tatum to stay confident and reminded him that even though he wasn’t scoring, he was helping with a whopping 13 assists.

This, of course, is nothing out of the ordinary for Smart.

“No, it's just being me. Everything, when I told those guys I love them, I meant it. We've all been through some things individually, Al, Jaylen, a couple of those guys that have been here with me”, Smart said before the start of the NBA Finals.

Opposing NBA teams game plans, especially earlier in the season, typically revolved around stopping Tatum and Brown.

Brown recognized that the young Boston stars were special but still had another gear, and that was not only creating shots for themselves but for others, like Smart.

Smart, who’s known for his hustle and his defensive leadership, has been criticized by fans and media for being outspoken but he knows his teammates have his back, and they're bought in. There’s no hard feelings, it’s all love to help achieve greatness.

Marcus Smart on the bond he shares with his teammates

When Marcus Smart’s mother, Camellia Smart passed away a few years ago after she lost her battle with cancer, Tatum and Brown were at the funeral in Texas to be there for their grieving teammate.

“My mom passed; they flew all the way to Dallas to the funeral. That was for real. It wasn't no tactic. It was nothing. That was me being who I am, and that was true. We have a special bond outside of basketball, and you know, to be able to go to war with those guys makes that bond even stronger”, Smart said.

The Celtics got off to a horrible start to the season, and in early January the Celtics were three games under .500 and in 11th place in the Eastern Conference.

Marcus Smart spoke up and it helped light a fire that is still burning. He’s never been afraid to speak his mind and it’s paying off.

“One, give respect. In order for you to get it, you have to give it. To receive respect, you've got to give it. I respect my teammates to my fullest with my play, my words, my actions, and they all know that everything I say and do is going to be honest and true and it's real."

"When you're a real person like that, it's kind of hard for people not to respect you and for people not to understand who you are and like you," Smart said. "So my teammates get it. They know that whatever it is, it doesn't matter; if I've done something bad, wrong, they feel they can talk to me, and vice versa. If I've done something right, they are going to give me my roses and vice versa."

Smart and Brown have had at least one heated exchange in the past after a tough loss a few years ago, but perhaps Smart is wearing off on Brown, who also spoke his mind when he predicted the Celtics would turn things around earlier this season.

Smart also lets his play do the talking. Smart was named the 2021-22 KIA NBA Defensive Player of the Year in April, becoming the first guard to win the annual award since Gary Payton in 1995-96, and he finished the regular season sixth in the NBA in steals per game.

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Now he’s hoping his defense wins a championship, and speaking up can’t hurt too as the Celtics look to take a 2-0 series lead in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday.


Edited by Sahib Singh
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