Celtics guard Marcus Smart, a pending restricted free agent this summer, and in immediate aftermath of a 1-for-10 shooting night in a Game 7 loss to the Cavaliers on Sunday, wasted no time telling the assembled media his worth.
“I’m worth more than $12-14 million [per year],” Smart told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.
Known for his defensive tenacity, the 24-year-old Smart’s comments didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere, as both he and his agent have been more than confident with what Smart was going to find himself making after the 2017-18 season.
Still, it was an unusual move on the surface given what had just happened on the court (Smart and the C’s blew leads and couldn’t hit the ocean in another postseason loss to LeBron James), but something that Celtics president Danny Ainge didn’t appear to have a legitimate problem with based on his comments to 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich on Thursday.
“I wouldn’t [address a contract situation after Game 7] but a lot of players do so it’s his prerogative,” Ainge admitted. “I know Marcus was not happy. He was very sad and frustrated with our team with our loss in that Game 7. It’s just simply he’s got a million cameras in front of him and got a bunch mics in front of him. It’s not like he’s coming out and saying, ‘Hey I need this.’ Somebody was asking that question and persisting on what he’s worth, and he just answered it in his honest opinion.
“It was just a question that was asked and he answered it.”
Ainge also made it a point to say that he’s not going to tell Smart, the longest-tenured Celtic and grittiest defender that the team can throw out there against the opposition, the right or wrong way to handle his situation.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Ainge remarked. “A lot of players talk about [their worth] and they’re free to say whatever they want in those regards and talk about their value publicly. I don’t negotiate in the media with my players. But listen, we need Marcus. Marcus is a good player. He provides a lot of energy for our team, and I hope that we can work something out going forward.”
Reportedly unable to work out a deal during their in-season negotiations, Smart can accept a $6.1 million qualifying offer from the Green and hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent next season if he so chooses. The 6-foot-4 Smart can also score a major payday this offseason elsewhere by way of an offer sheet that the Celtics would have the ability to match, though doing that would put the C’s into the luxury tax, and seems unlikely to happen given how the C’s covet their financial flexibility.
That second scenario prompted Ainge to go to the most Ainge line possible, too, essentially saying that they’re not going to overextend themselves just to keep No. 36 in Celtic Green this summer.
“I think that everybody is replaceable,” Ainge said. “We learn that as players early, early in our careers when there’s trades that happen or when injuries happens. If there ever was a team that would know that, it would be this team that just went through what we went through this year to lose two All-Stars in the prime of their careers, early in the season in one case.
“We’re all replaceable. Nobody is irreplaceable, but Marcus is certainly a player that has been big for us over the last few years.”
You can listen to the complete interview below.