WALTHAM – Marcus Smart likes a challenge and that’s exactly what he faced Friday as he worked out against top guard prospects from around the country in front of the Celtics’ coaching staff and front office.
The stacked workout group featured Michigan’s Nik Stauskas, Michigan State’s Gary Harris, Missouri’s Jordan Clarkson UCLA’s Zach LaVine, and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton along with Smart.
As the top-ranked prospect in this year’s draft field, Smart embraced the opportunity to match up with top-flight competition, a departure from other lottery prospects like Julius Randle who took part in a solo workout Friday morning for Boston.
“I told my agent, Lee Melchionni, you see all these guys dodging,” Smart explained. “My biggest attribute, to me, I’m a competitor. I show my best skills when the game’s on the line, when somebody’s guarding me, and there’s competition.”
Smart continued: “Whoever you put in front of me, I’m not going to back down. I’ve never backed down from a challenge. That’s not me. That’s not what my makeup is. In a sense, it’s kind of showing the teams that it doesn’t matter [who I face]. I’m supposed to be ranked one of the top guards here, but I’m still playing against guys that’s lower [ranked] than me that might have a chance – if they do this, if they do that – to move up in the rankings. But that doesn’t scare me because of who I am.”
It’s unclear at this point just how much of a fit Smart could be for the Celtics, if the team selected him with the sixth overall pick. Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless enter the offseason as free agents but Rajon Rondo remains in place as the team’s leader and point guard. Smart indicated today he would have no problem playing second fiddle to Rondo in the backcourt.
“Rondo’s one of the greatest point guards to ever play this game,” Smart said. “If I’m fortunate enough and Boston picks me, and that means I have to sit on the bench (behind) Rondo, that’s an honor to learn from one of the greatest point guards in that position. Especially with me playing the point guard position, he’s been playing it for a while…It would be an honor.”
After the workout, Brad Stevens had nothing but complimentary things to say about the former Oklahoma State star rising to the challenge against a tough field.
“I thought he was good. I thought he was physical,” Stevens continued. “I thought he was a leader. I thought he shot the ball well in drills. I think that clearly, he’s got a way about him that people follow. He is a very tough guy and competed the whole time. My expectations for him were high from that regard, but he certainly met them.”
DRAFT WORKOUT ODDS AND ENDS
A few leftover items of interest following the guard workout:
–After witnessing two kinds of workouts on the day, Stevens was asked about whether he had a preference between watching solo workouts compared to group ones. “As a guy in the workout that’s doing the workout that doesn’t get to see quite as many games, I’m just trying to see as many guys as possible, period, whether they’re on the court by themselves or 3-on-3,” said Stevens.
–Payton told reporters he is expected to be drafted anywhere from the 7-20 range in the first round. His stock has risen on many draft boards after his recent workouts.
–Stevens gave his two cents on the Spurs’ domination of the NBA Finals during the past two games, making a unique analogy to state his point. “I saw somebody say that playing the Spurs is like playing chess against a computer,” Stevens said. “They’re such a machine right now. But you’ve seen the Heat turn it up a notch to where they’re untouchable and both those teams are absolutely playing at a high level. You can have a feel for them, but that doesn’t mean you can do anything about it. Doesn’t mean you can stop them.”
–The Celtics are tentatively planning to have their next workouts with prospects on Monday and Thursday of next week.