Marcus Smart trying to evolve into a knockdown shooter and early returns are positive

A. Sherrod Blakely

ORLANDO, Fla. -- As the longest-tenured Celtic, Marcus Smart knows part of his role will be to teach some of the younger players the ways of being a Celtic.

But Smart knows he, too, must evolve as a player. 

And for Smart, that evolution involves becoming more impactful on offense. 

"This year I want to be more aggressive on the offensive end, as much as I am on defense," Smart told NBC Sports Boston.

The idea of seeing Marcus Smart chucking up more shots isn't exactly the most comforting image for Celtics fans. 

But for those who have played with him and coached him, what we're seeing now are the seeds of hard work finally coming to fruition. 

What's often overlooked was that Smart was relatively injury-free last season for the first time. 

So, is it a coincidence that Smart's best season shooting the ball just so happened to come last season when he tallied career highs in games played (80) and starts (60)?

Hardly not.

And then you have games such as the 100-75 preseason win at Orlando on Friday night, when Smart scored 14 points which included him going 4-for-6 from 3-point range. 

No one expects Smart to shoot that well in the regular season. 

No one connects at a clip that high. 

Still, if Smart makes significant progress percentage-wise on his long-range shooting, the calculus that many have for the Celtics this season will undergo a dramatic change in the Green Team's favor. 

Because more games than not, Smart is the one Boston player that folks gamble on will either not look to shoot or will shoot and miss. 

Prior to last season, Smart consistently shot less than 40 percent from the field and hovered around the low-30, high-20 percentage range when it came to shooting 3's.

Smart has spent years working on improving his 3-point shot, well aware that it has been the one knock against him throughout his NBA career. 

But being relatively healthy last season, Smart connected on a career-high 42.2 percent from the field which included making 36.4 percent on 3's which was also a career benchmark for Smart. 

By no means does Smart now all of a sudden move up to the top of the scouting report when it comes to teams facing the Celtics. 

But if teams are dealing with a Boston squad that has a slew of versatile wing scorers and now you add Smart to the roll call, the Celtics become a different - and far more difficult - team to beat. 

For Smart and the Celtics, it isn't so much about him scoring more points but being more of a threat. 

"Just like guys like Kemba [Walker] and Jayson [Tatum] and those guys open things up for me because of how they shoot the ball, if I'm knocking down shots it'll do the same for them and that makes us a lot more dangerous of a team."

After his shooting performance against the Magic, some jokingly referred to him as Marcus Curry - Marcus Smart shooting like Steph Curry makes Marcus Curry, get it?

But the reality is Smart will never be on the same level of shooting as Curry, one of the game's all-time greats. 

And Curry will never be able to impact the game defensively the way Smart has done for years and will continue to going forward. 

Still, the idea of Smart looking to become a more reliable shooter, while still playing high-level defense, is the kind of unexpected development that could be the catalyst to the Celtics going on a special run that Celtics fans - and players - are optimistic about this season.

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Marcus Smart trying to evolve into a knockdown shooter and early returns are positive originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston