ORLANDO — If a week of summer league competition taught Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart anything, it’s that his acclimation to the NBA will be a process.
“Definitely. It’s going to be something you take day by day. It’s not going to happen overnight,” the No. 6 overall pick said Friday, when his team closed out summer league with a 95-86 loss to the Indiana Pacers at the Orlando Magic’s practice facility.
“You’re going to struggle,” Smart continued. “You’re going to get down. And it’s almost going to feel like you want to give up. But that’s when you [find out] who you are. You find out if you’re really willing to work, if you’re really willing to be here, or if you’re just here because you’re here. It’s going to make me a better person.”
Smart, a former Oklahoma State standout, had an up-and-down week as the Celtics posted a 3-2 record, finishing fourth in the summer league standings.
He averaged 14.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2 steals in 29.2 minutes per game, a solid stat line that reflects his versatility.
But Smart struggled mightily with his shooting, hitting just 29 percent (20 of 68) of his field goal attempts, the worst percentage of any player who took more than 55 shots.
He also shot 25.9 percent (9 of 35) from 3-point range.
Smart’s struggles with shooting have been well documented, and his performance only reinforced those notions.
Still, it’s not like he turned down many shots, either. He remained aggressive.
“I don’t think he was the only one missing a fair amount of shots at summer league,” said Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga, who coached the team. “That’s a part of summer league. You have the intensity and the pressure on these guys that they feel. Either it’s their first opportunity to play for an NBA team or they’re trying to play for an NBA team, so I think that’s pretty normal.
“I think we saw glimpses at times in [Thursday’s] game and [Friday] where he got it going and he was feeling a little more comfortable. So I feel really confident that he’s going to be a really solid offensive player.”
Smart scored 19 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, in a win Thursday against Orlando. And he made 4 of 9 from 3-point range Friday against Indiana.
Through the first two games, though, Smart had shot 5 of 23, including 1 of 10 from beyond the arc.
“I’m comfortable. It’s just, I have to find a touch and I think I’ve done that these last two games,” Smart said.
The week gave Smart his first taste of the NBA game, and it showed him just how different it is from the college game.
“It’s different,” he said. “[There’s] a lot more contact than in college. You can do a lot of things now that you couldn’t do in college. I think it’s a benefit because I am a physical player, so it helps me.”
The 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound Smart plays an aggressive game that has been likened to a bull in a China shop, so he no doubt enjoys the opportunity to bully players more at this level while getting away with it.
“A little bit, yeah,” he said, smiling.
But the week also whetted his appetite for more organized basketball, especially for when the Celtics will reconvene in the early fall for training camp.
“I can’t wait to play, get back out there and play,” Smart said. “I’ve been sitting out for a [while], no competition, just working out ever since April. Actually since March, since [Oklahoma State] lost, I haven’t been doing any competition. I’ve just been working out. So I’m very giddy about getting back out there and playing with some competition.”
And, overall, Larranaga said the Celtics liked what they saw from Smart.
“I think Marcus reinforced a lot of the things that we were hoping for when we drafted him,” Larranaga said. “He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s a tremendous teammate. He’s really skilled in all areas. He can dribble, pass, shoot, defend, rebound.
“I think the coaches really love that any time there was a ball near him, he was getting it. If that’s something that he can continue during the season, I think it’s just a great quality to have. We’re really happy with his performance.”