Smart Showing KG-Like Traits to Horford

BOSTON – Marcus Smart has a whole lot of Kevin Garnett in him.

Al Horford didn’t exactly use those words, but he might as well have.

“Marcus Smart is setting the tone in practice every day,” Horford said Friday night before the team’s open-practice scrimmage at TD Garden. “It’s just very impressive to see how hard he plays and how hard he commits.”

Just minutes later, Brad Stevens commented on the third-year guard’s practice habits, and his take wasn’t far off from that of his new big man.

“I’ve said this before: you just know he’s there,” Stevens said. “He is a presence on the floor on both ends.”

Anyone who played with Kevin Garnett during his illustrious 21-year career would say the exact same things about the former Celtic and future Hall-of-Famer. Now, it appears that Smart is carrying the torch as Boston’s most intense player on the practice court.

“I’ve been seeing that since last year’s Summer League,” fellow guard Terry Rozier said Friday. “I wanted to be like, ‘Wow, he needs to relax a little bit.’”

But that’s the thing that the Celtics love about Smart – and what opponents hate about him. He’s relentless, and never backs down.

“You need a guy like that,” Rozier added. “That’s one of the guys I’ll always take on my team, a guy like Marcus Smart, because he’s always going to make it tough on the opposing team and you always know he’s got your back and he’s always going to play hard.”

Some expect Smart’s offense to catch up to his defense this season, which would allow him to become a true game-changer at both ends of the court. Stevens, however, was quick to remind all who would listen Friday night that Smart, who received two First Team votes for the All-Defensive team as a second-year player last season, is already performing like an elite prospect.

“I think everybody should improve year to year, but I think at the end of the day he’s had a really good two years,” the coach said. “And I know, hey, we all want him to be better, we all want him to get better, he wants to get better, but when you look at it across the younger guys at his age in the league, he’s been up there.”

He sure has, and that trend doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

Why? Because Smart doesn’t just go through the motions; instead, he operates like a fierce competitor every moment he is on a basketball court.

He may not be Kevin Garnett, but Smart practices like him. And that’s why the Celtics have their money on Smart continuing his evolution as one of the top young players the NBA has to offer.