After an offseason in which the Celtics were publicly linked to a potential trade with Kevin Durant, one of the team’s executives is just happy to be back at the core for another year.
Marcus Smart, speaking on “The Rich Eisen Show” earlier this week, frankly acknowledged that the prospect of having a future Hall of Fame talent like Durant in Boston would have been nice.
“It sure would have been cool to have Kevin Durant,” Smart said. “I think any team, anybody would tell you [he’s] one of the best players in the world, of course you want him in your team.
“But at the same time, Jaylen Brown and Jayson [Tatum], these two guys who are young rising superstars, and we just reached the final. So for me, I was happy.
“Why not bring him back? Smart added.
And as the reigning 28-year-old NBA Defensive Player of the Year noted, he’s used to trading rumors at this point.
“For me, my name has been in trade talks since I got here,” Smart said. “So I really couldn’t think about it too much because I’ve been doing this for a long time, I know how it goes.”
Looking back on the 2021-22 season, Smart said the team was able to gain momentum past the trade deadline.
“For us, we became more stable after the trade deadline,” Smart explained, noting that removing any additional trading opportunities helped build consistency.
“I think at the start of the year we had a new coach, we had new guys, we were trying new formations, nobody knew exactly what was safe, and I think that hurt us,” did he declare.
Despite the slow start, Boston eventually turned into the Eastern Conference champion.
Smart credited freshman coach Ime Udoka for instilling discipline and accountability.
“It’s going to work or you’re not going to play, so that’s how we’re going to do it,” Smart said of Udoka’s approach. “And it wasn’t just with one player, it was the whole team, from the guys to the coaching staff, and it kind of relieved us that, ‘OK, he knows what he wants to talk about.’ He doesn’t come out here looking scared, scared, nervous and so he’s going to give us the confidence to do the exact same thing.
Smart was asked to explain the difference between Udoka and former Celtics coach (now president of basketball operations) Brad Stevens.
“Brad is a more laid back guy,” Smart began. “Killer smile, I can’t really stay mad at him. While Ime, he doesn’t care too much about you. He will tell you exactly how he feels.
“He’s a little more in your face, he’s more aggressive than Brad,” Smart added. “He was a player himself. So he understands, he understands and he understands a little more how to get the best out of the players, and what to say, when not to say things and how to say them.
As to whether the protracted trade rumors regarding Durant (and involving several Celtics players) will have a long-term effect, Smart had a straight answer.
“No,” he answered. “It’s my job to make sure that’s not the case.”
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