Celtics guard Marcus Smart arrived in Las Vegas on Tuesday to begin preparing for his stint with the USA Select team next week. The squad, which is made up of rookies and second-and-third-year players, will scrimmage against Team USA as it prepares for the Olympics in Rio next month. Smart also was a member of the select team in 2014, when Team USA took part in the basketball World Cup.
“This is a big accomplishment,” Smart said. “I’ve been with USA basketball for like the last four years now. For them to call me out here and come and try out is still unbelievable to me. My goal this year is to go out there and give the best impression that I can give.”
Smart, who is still just 22 years old, said he’s hopeful that these experiences could help lay the groundwork for a spot on an Olympic roster someday.
“With the years I’ve had with USA Basketball, my loyalty, their loyalty to me with always asking me to come back, that’s incredible,” he said.
This is a busy summer for Smart. After being part of the Celtics’ delegation that attempted to woo free-agent Kevin Durant, he departed for his weeklong children’s camp in the Canary Islands.
Smart worked out with the Celtics summer league team for a bit before it left for the Utah Jazz summer league on July 3, and rookie forward Jaylen Brown left quite an impression.
“He’s a really explosive, strong guy,” Smart said. “He’s a really good player. He’s going to be really good.”
Smart was also impressed by third-year wing James Young’s ability to drive to the basket, and he said second-year guard Terry Rozier — Boston’s best player this summer — stood out, too.
“Terry’s been incredible,” Smart said. “His confidence is through the roof.”
Brown puts on clinic
After the Celtics lost their first two games of the Las Vegas summer league, coach Jamie Young realized he was not putting Brown in the best position to succeed.
Brown is dangerous as a slasher, particularly when his attack is sudden and direct. So Young worked to get him passes off live dribbles of his teammates, and then he told him to charge toward the basket on a line rather than swirling from side-to-side and making it easier for defenders to keep up with his speed.
“We told him, ‘Straight-line drives. Don’t mess around when you catch it,’” Young said. “Grip and go. Grip and drive line-drives.”
Brown took those instructions and had his finest game of this summer, registering 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4 steals in Boston’s 88-82 win over the Mavericks. For the second time in four summer league games, Brown attempted 17 total free throws.
“I had a lot of driving lanes,” Brown said. “I felt a little bit more explosive today. My first step felt a little quicker, so I was able to get to the free throw line. I was able to get out in transition as well.”
With the win, the Celtics avoided going o-3 in the round-robin portion of this summer league. They will play in the first round of the playoffs on Wednesday, although they will not be one of the eight teams to receive a first-round bye in the 24-team event.
“We finally got a win so we just have to run with it,” Rozier said. “It’s definitely not too late. We can still make a run these next few days, so we’ve just got to keep it going.”
Rozier continued his electric play for the Celtics, tallying 26 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. Brown and Rozier combined to attempt 35 free throws in the 40-minute game. To put that figure in perspective, Boston attempted just 23.5 foul shots per game last season, and those games are 8 minutes longer.
Rozier, for one, has been impressed by Brown’s attacking style.
“He’s not scared,” Rozier said. “You can put anything in front of him, and he’s not going to be scared to go at you.”
Sullinger was wanted
Former Celtics forward Jared Sullinger signed a one-year deal with the Raptors on Monday. Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri said the reason for bringing in the burly big man was simple.
“Just watching him kill us every time we play,” Ujiri said. “You’re always attracted to those kinds of players. He fits a need that we have: rebounding. It’s not necessarily rim protection, but he’s a wall. He can set picks for our guys, stretch the court a little bit and he’s skilled. He’s a great passer. He’s got a great basketball IQ.”
Sullinger actually averaged just 6 points and 5 rebounds in four games against Toronto last season. In 2014-15, Sullinger averaged 9 points and 8.8 rebounds against the Raptors. The forward was a restricted free agent with the Celtics, but last week the team rescinded its qualifying offer, making Sullinger an unrestricted free agent.