Boston Celtics

Celtics guard Marcus Smart, a restricted free agent this summer, wants to get paid.

A $6.1 million qualifying offer (if offered) could allow the Celtics to pay the four-year pro and defensive stopper closer to market value. And if the 6-foot-4 Smart were to accept such an offer, he would return to Boston on a one-year deal and then hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

Accepting such a qualifying offer doesn’t really seem to be something of any interest to the 24-year-old Smart, though, as he apparently views himself worth at least twice that $6.1 million per year salary.

“To be honest, I’m worth more than $12-14 million [per year],” Smart told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan after the C’s Game 7 loss to the Cavaliers. “Just for the things I do on the court that don’t show up on the stat sheet. You don’t find guys like that. I always leave everything on the court, every game. Tell me how many other players can say that.”

Such a contract would make Smart the fourth-highest paid Celtic on next year’s payroll (behind Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, and Kyrie Irving), and saying that after shooting a horrendous 1-for-10 in that Game 7 loss doesn’t seem to help Smart’s case. In fact, the postseason was yet another chucking kind of stretch for the 6-foot-4 Smart, as he ended the playoffs with a 33.6 percent mark from the field (and Celtic-low 22.1 percent from behind the arc) in 15 games.

But Smart told MacMullan that teammates ‘want’ him shooting as much as he does, and that they call him the ‘heart’ of their team.

“I’m not sure if you can put a price on that,” Smart said of his intangibles.

And speaking with reporters the day after those comments to ESPN, Smart said that the C’s are planning on bringing him back for another run with a Green squad that came just one win shy of a trip to the NBA Finals.

“They’re already planning for me to be here,” Smart told the assembled media. “Those guys, I tip my hat to those guys. You don’t see a lot of organizations that are as clear about their players as the way this organization does it.

“Danny [Ainge] emphasizes all the time how much he loves me as a player and emphasized how much they want me here. I want to be here, so that’s the plan right now,” Smart continued. “I’ve been here four years. Boston’s all I know. The atmosphere that the city just gives off to you is remarkable. It’s ecstatic and it’s a good feeling. You want to feel that way. You want to be around people you’re comfortable with and you feel showed you love and Boston does that.”

But Ainge has moved on from dozens of players they’ve loved more than Smart when it came time to pay them or when they thought they had priced themselves out of Boston’s acceptable range. Speaking from the guard spot alone (and in less than a year), Ainge moved on from Isaiah Thomas when a max contract loomed and traded Avery Bradley before a contract year.

Given Smart’s penchant for clutch defensive stops, however, Ainge hinted that Smart’s role may be something that the Celtics are willing to spend for given how close this team seems to be to legitimately competing for an NBA title.

“In Boston, our ownership group has been fantastic. They’ve been very willing to pay for teams that have a chance,” Ainge said when asked about there being enough money in the bank for the Celtics to re-sign Smart. “I think the way that our team has played this year, I think that will make it easier for them to step forward and realize the potential of this team and be willing to pay the money that we need to be as good as we can.”

With all that said, ESPN reported that the C’s (unsuccessfully) tried to negotiate an extension with Smart during the season, and have resigned themselves to the fact that somebody else will likely step in with an offer that the Celtics will not match. Or that Smart, with all his praise for the Celtics, will not take a ‘hometown discount’ to stay in Boston, at the very least.