Boston Celtics

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

The TD Garden parquet was still soaked in sweat when Marcus Smart decided to tell the world what he’s worth.

And it was probably a lot more than you expected.

“To be honest, I’m worth more than $12-14 million [per year],” Smart, who converted on just one of 10 shots in Boston’s Game 7 loss to the Cavaliers, told ESPN’. “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.”

Here the Celtics were, just minutes removed from their season ending with an undeniable choke against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. On their home court, no less. And here was Smart once again talking about his pending restricted free agency. Given the circumstances, it probably wasn’t the best look.

But now it’s Smart that’s allegedly ‘disgusted and hurt’ by how Celtics president Danny Ainge is treating him?

Please.

Let me start by saying that I’m a Marcus Smart Guy. Although I’m among those that groan when he throws up a three, I absolutely believe that he has legitimate value to the Celtics and their championship hopes, especially in what is currently a guard-dominated NBA landscape. Smart’s versatility in the defensive end is something that’s hard to just replace with a plug-and-play talent, and his tone-setting physicality can almost cancel out what he is a straight-up disastrous offensive game.

And the Celtics, for what it’s worth, appear to be an organization of Marcus Smart Guys. They have routinely gushed about Smart’s value to the team, and has repeatedly mentioned the fact that they want — nay, need — him back next season. They did not renounce his rights like the Lakers did with Julius Randle or what Ainge did with Kelly Olynyk last season. Their decision to spend at least $6 million on Smart’s erratic play by way of a qualifying offer shows a commitment to his game.

In essence, this idea that Ainge is doing Smart wrong — in any way, shape, or form right now — is laughably stupid.

First of all, free agency is six days old.

In those six days, the Celtics have signed EuroLeague standout Brad Wanamaker (he’s their Shane Larkin replacement), re-upped center Aron Baynes on a two-year deal worth $11 million, and signed 2018 first-round pick Robert Williams III. Not a single one of these players are legitimately eating into Smart’s money on his next contract, nor are they considered ‘priority’ over Smart no matter the spin one could try to put on it, even as they sit there signed while he sits in contract limbo.

And, again, free agency is six days old.

Houston’s Clint Capela remains an unsigned restricted free agent. Same for the Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic. Both accomplished more than Smart a season ago. When you’re an RFA, this is all part of the process. Given the fact that the original team has the right to match a contract offer from the outside before anything else, being an RFA rarely features a mad dash to re-sign on the part of the original team. Hell, the Washington Wizards had to be confronted with an offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets to finally sign on the dotted line to keep Otto Porter Jr. in town on a max contract last year.

So being disgusted and hurt by a process you willingly chose to partake in seems like attention-seeking behavior at its finest.

And that’s an important point to remember in all of this. The Celtics repeatedly tried to come to terms on an extension with Smart during the regular season, from all reports and indications. But they were routinely shut down, as the sides were clearly not negotiating on the same planet in terms of what the Celtics were willing to pay versus requests from Smart’s camp.

With the acknowledgment that the negotiations were going nowhere, why wouldn’t Ainge and the Celtics let this process play itself out and make it so that an outside party forces you to bridge the gap in negotiations?

If Ainge wasn’t doing it this way, I think I’d be the one that’s disgusted and hurt, to be honest.

This, of course, brings us to our greatest point in all of this: Smart isn’t disgusted and hurt because the Celtics haven’t called him. He’s disgusted and hurt because the rest of the league has not called him.

A player that’s consistently hyped up his own value (imagine Isaiah Thomas, but without the MVP numbers), the cold reality of a burst bubble for NBA free agents has hit Smart and his representatives like a hotel picture frame in the first week of free agency. Yes, you may make winning plays. Yes, you may be the grittiest grinder to ever live, and diving for loose balls when your team is up by 20 in February is proof enough. But you’re not the $14 million a year player you bragged about being in the face of a Game 7 defeat. Nor are your intangibles difficult to measure when determining the value of your next contract.

Instead, Smart is what he is right now. And that’s a restricted free agent with limited suitors and options he doesn’t like.

That’s not all Ainge and the C’s fault.

Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.