ORLANDO, Fla. -- Two games into his pro career, Boston Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart is shooting just 21.7 percent from the floor (5-of-23) and has made only one of 10 3-point attempts. Fellow backcourt mate Phil Pressey had simple and familiar advice for Smart: Keep shooting.
"Guys miss shots all the time in summer league and, going into the regular season, they catch fire," Pressey said. "This is what summer league is for -- for you to work on your game and try things out. I feel like he’s doing that. I'd rather him go 2-for-20 than 0-for-2 or 0-for-3 because, right now, it doesn’t count. In the regular season, it’s going to count."
Smart connected on just 3-of-15 shots (including having three shots blocked) during Monday's 96-77 loss to the Indiana Pacers, but finished with 11 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal over 27 minutes, 29 seconds of floor time. It was an up-and-down performance, with Smart tending to thrive more off the ball while running with a ball-handler like Pressey alongside.
Smart didn't seem overly concerned about his poor shooting night.
"Just one of those nights where my shot wasn’t falling," Smart said. "I just tried to go on the defensive end and compete on that end because I can control my defensive effort every night."
That was a sentiment echoed by head coach Brad Stevens on Sunday when he praised Smart for the way his defense impacted Boston's summer-opening win against the Miami Heat, while suggesting his shooting will come along at the NBA level.
"I couldn’t have been happier with his first summer league game and he was 2-for-8 [shooting overall] and 0-for-5 [beyond the 3-point arc]," Stevens said. "I really think he’ll grow and his shot -- I think that’s something that will come over time. I think the biggest thing is he just needs reps and belief and we’ll help him get there."
The knock on Pressey has long been that he doesn't have the perimeter shooting to force defenses to stay honest. Early in his rookie season in Boston, Pressey struggled with his shot, but he said veterans such as Rajon Rondo implored him to keep shooting and build that confidence. Now playing the veteran role on this year's summer squad, Pressey is imparting that same advice to others.
Smart, who Celtics coaches have suggested has emerged as a leader on the summer squad because of the way he's programmed, said he accepted responsibility for Boston's poor play on Monday.
"Being a point guard and being a leader on my teams, I definitely feel like I take a lot of responsibility," Smart said. "We had moments out there where we didn’t look like we knew where we were -- defensive end and offensive end. As a leader and as a point guard, I've definitely got to get my teammates back on the right track and I just feel like we didn’t do that tonight."
The usual "It's summer league!" reminder should be offered here. Rookies are going to have ups and downs. Magic point guard Elfrid Payton -- the 10th overall pick -- had a dud of a summer debut earlier this week, then turned around on Monday and had 12 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds in Orlando's win over Houston.
Smart is in an increased spotlight this time of year, which tends to exaggerate both his successes and miscues. Asked what he's trying to get out of summer league, Smart offered, "Just playing. Nothing really much different. I’ve been getting used to the 3-point line, just staying consistent and trying to get more shots up. And make more shots. Just keep playing every day."