Brad Stevens, acknowledging that his starting lineup will be more dependent on matchups this season, is bringing Marcus Smart off the bench Monday night in the Celtics’ preseason opener against Charlotte behind a starting five of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Aron Baynes. The latter selection was obviously made with the Hornets’ Dwight Howard in mind.
But it’s all fine with Smart, whose toughness and mentorship will pay a dividend for the Celtics’ young bench.
“I’m totally fine with that. I had a talk with Brad (Stevens) and we actually discussed that,” said the Celtics guard. “He was debating about whether starting me or coming off the bench for various reasons. I told him whatever you decide I’m with it. That’s the uniqueness about this team. No one really cares if they start or come off the bench. Everybody has to be ready, everybody’s gonna play a role, a big role, when they come in the game.
“I’ve got to lead by example,” Smart said of his role with his young teammates. “Everybody keeps talking about I’m the longest tenured Celtic. I’ve been here. I know what Brad wants on the defense and offensive end. I know we have a lot of guys, new guys, young guys, still coming in trying to learn, and they’re gonna be looking for someone who’s been there. And with me being in, that’d be me.”
Besides, there will be plenty of times – especially against smaller teams – where Smart is in the starting five. He’ll always be part of the finishing group.
“I definitely think that. We’d seen some of that last year with Brad mixing up lineups with just matchups and the feel of the game,” he said. “That’s where it comes in that everyone has to be ready, because everyone’s gonna play a role at some point. So you have to be ready as soon as you come in to make an impact and we have guys on this team that can do that. So it’s a unique team and we’re ready to go.”