WALTHAM — The Celtics’ roster has undergone multiple facelifts in recent years, but amid all the trading, signing, drafting, and reshuffling, Marcus Smart has remained the one constant. And while free agency will not open until Sunday evening, Smart has been around long enough to understand that big alterations could be coming once again.
“I expected things to change [this summer],” Smart said during a break at his annual kids basketball camp at Brandeis on Tuesday. “I wasn’t expecting big or little, I just knew something was going to change. I think everyone kind of knew that. Now, what that is, we have no clue. Like I said, you can’t really focus on that. You have to let the guys whose jobs it is to focus on that. You focus on what you can.”
Smart, like everyone else, has seen the reports that Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are likely to sign elsewhere this summer. He said he has spoken to Irving since the season ended in May, but only about his family, not his basketball future. He was asked Tuesday whether it surprised him to hear that there is a good chance both players will be leaving the Celtics.
“A little bit, it did,” he said. “But, those guys are grown and they have every right to do what they feel is best for not only them and their families and their careers. Regardless of if those guys stay or leave, I have nothing but love for them. Always will. I wish nothing but the best luck for them, whatever they do.”
There was a good chance that if the Celtics had acquired Anthony Davis from the Pelicans earlier this month, Smart would have been sent to New Orleans. But Davis is a Laker now, of course, and some of the frustration caused by Boston’s failure to land Davis was tempered by the fact that Smart is now back.
There will be more clarity in the coming weeks, but Smart does not yet know what the roster will look like. For that matter, neither do the Celtics. But Smart is eager to help reboot the franchise.
“I’m excited,” he said. “We’re excited. As competitors, you have a season like we did last year and it leaves a funny taste in your mouth. We use that as our motivation and to keep going. We’re very excited. Whatever team or whatever people or whoever is on the board or whoever is on this roster with us, we’re excited to have them to go out there and fight.”
The Celtics drafted four players last Thursday, and Smart called them “great pickups” and thinks they will be able to help the team next season. Even though Smart is still just 25 years old, he is now something of an elder statesman on this team. Of the players under contract for next season, only Gordon Hayward is older.
“I see my role as bigger than ever now,” Smart said. “Just because, once again, being that longest-tenured Celtic, going into my sixth season and really understanding Brad [Stevens] and this organization, and the system that he likes to run, and just, that’s who I am. And I’ve got to be that times 10 now, because we are going through some things. We did have a bad year. We’ve just got to keep everybody on the same track.”
There will be reinforcements coming in some form, however. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the Celtics could pursue the All-Star free agent point guard Kemba Walker. Even if they do not, they could create about $35 million in salary cap space to find some more help for Smart and this young core. Smart said he had not been asked to provide any free agency assistance just yet.
“Just letting the front office, people who run those situations, take care of it,” he said. “Whatever I have to do on my part to help this team, if that is get involved in the recruiting process [I will].”
It may seem that given these imminent and high-profile departures, the Celtics are essentially resetting. But Smart views the situation through a different prism.
“The thing is, the Raptors just won the championship, right?” he said. “But they’ve got to start back over from the beginning just like we do. So we all start back over at the starting line, we all start at zero, and we all get a chance to do it.
“So everybody’s starting over, regardless if they have the same team or not, they’ve all got to start from the beginning. That’s how we take it. We take it as we come in, and we have an opportunity to do something special.”