ORLANDO — Marcus Smart came into the week with the goal of improving his shot selection.
Then he spun like top around Elfrid Payton, found just a crack between a pair of Magic defenders on the perimeter and finally finished at the rim with an improbable scoop that was one of the jaw-dropping highlights of the Orlando Pro Summer League.
“To be honest, I didn’t know I was going to scoop it with my left,” he said with a grin. “But I’m glad it went in.”
So much for shot selection.
Of course, the 6-foot-4 guard has never been anything close to a classic shooter, playing more like a tight end rumbling toward the goal line.
“I’m not your (average) point guard strength-wise,” Smart said. “I have a 6-9 wingspan so that helps me a lot. I have a little advantage over a lot of guards.”
Smart shot just 41.3 percent from the field (29.5 on 3-pointers) in his two college seasons at Oklahoma State and his shooting numbers have not been the kind to write home about. He made just 20 of 68 shots in five games this week.
Yet despite his offensive struggles, Smart repeatedly showed the the fire and aggression that were some of the biggest reasons why the Celtics made him the No. 6 pick in the Draft. His hands were constantly moving, reaching out and stripping the ball from the grip of his opponents. He used his strength and size to often smother opponents and was a willing and capable passer, averaging 4.2 assists per game. There are times when he simply out-muscles and overwhelms opponents on defense.
“Marcus has done a great job of picking the team up and giving them both defensive and offensive energy,” said assistant Jay Larranaga, who ran the summer league team.
Smart also demonstrated the knack for rising to the occasion down the stretch of games and taking — and making — big shots, no matter much he’d be struggling to find the basket earlier.
“I’ve always been told, if you want to be a good shooter, and I have a good shot, you can’t worry about the last play,” he said. “You have to move on. That’s Ray Allen, the best shooter in the NBA, I think. That’s why he’s so good. He can miss four in a row, but you know that fifth shot is just made for him. You just have to keep shooting.”
The shot will come. The coaching at the NBA level can work with Smart on his choices to make him more functional. But the Celtics have every reason to be happy with what they’ve seen from Smart this week.
“It’s still really early, but Marcus came in with a really good understanding of the defensive side,” said president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “That’s rare for rookies. Usually defense prevents them from getting on the court. I don’t think defense is going to prevent Marcus from getting on the court.”