Marcus Smart isn't one to back down from a fight.
And Smart, the longest tenured Celtic and the unofficial leader in the wake of the offseason departures of both Kyrie Irving and Al Horford this past summer, knows this year's squad is going to have to fight to prove they're still a legitimate threat.
“A lot of people have us counted out,” Smart said on an appearance on The Atheltic’s “Tampering” podcast with Sam Amick and Joe Vardon. “We use that as motivation. We like it. We like being the underdog.
"We have nothing to lose and everything to gain and we are going to use that to our advantage.”
This is hardly a new revelation to Smart. Smart previously said that this year's Celtics would have the mindset of a "wounded coyote," and pretty much everybody knew that the Celtics were going to take a step back in the overall power rankings of NBA championship threats by way of losing Irving and Horford and replacing them with Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter. The Celtics also lost some bench pieces and replaced them with four rookies and a 7-foot-6 rookie center on a two-way contract.
They're not exactly burdened with the overwhelming Finals-or-bust pressure that the team had faced over the last two years.
And while the Celtics will face some new challenges both in the East and West -- the Clippers and Lakers have formed super-teams out West, the Rockets have Russell Westbrook riding shotgun with James Harden, and Kyrie will eventually team up with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn -- Smart is ready to let everything be settled on the court.
Even if his team appears overmatched on paper.
“If guys want to team up to make super-teams or want to team up with their best friend or favorite player that’s all fine and dandy to me," Smart said. "I’m still going out there to play. Anything can go when you step on that court.”
The Celtics will open the 2019-20 season next Wednesday night in Philadelphia.