Celtics

Ime Udoka calls ‘invaluable’ Marcus Smart a ‘foundational piece’ for Celtics

Udoka referenced his time coaching Smart with the U.S. national team to talk about his value to the team.

Marcus Smart Celtics
Marcus Smart. Charles Krupa/AP
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New Celtics coach Ime Udoka knows what he has in his two best players, All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Udoka, who has coached Tatum and Brown during their time with the U.S. national team, says he’s excited to work with his “two young pillars” of the team to bring the Celtics back to playoff glory.

But he also talked Tuesday about another player he believes means a lot to his new team: Marcus Smart.

When asked by 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak and Bertrand Show if he saw Smart as another “pillar” for the Celtics, Udoka said, “Yeah.”

“I’ve spent time with all three of those guys…they all bring something different to the team. What Marcus brings is invaluable: he’s the heart and soul of the team at times,” he said of the veteran guard.

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Udoka then referenced Smart’s leadership and fearlessness when playing with the U.S. select team against the national team’s starters as an example of what he brings to the young Celtics squad.

“He was the only guy who really wasn’t scared out there,” he said of Smart. “We got future NBA All-Stars and All-NBA guys, and they were a little timid at times. But Marcus was a very vocal leader. He has that edge and toughness about him, so the things he brings to your team are the things you love every player to bring. You hate playing against him, but you want him on your side.

“He’s another foundational piece. He’s been here through thick and thin, seen the winning and seen some down times. What he does for Jayson and Jaylen is invaluable in my eyes,” he added.

Smart’s future with the Celtics remains uncertain heading into 2021, after which his latest contract runs out. He’s even been discussed as a possible trade chip the team could use to bring in another star to pair with Tatum and Brown.

Whatever happens with Smart this season, he seems to have a strong supporter in his new head coach.

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