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Friday, July 11, 2014
Smart wraps up summer on high note

By Brian Robb, Special to ESPNBoston.com

ORLANDO -- Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart wrapped up his first week of NBA action on Friday feeling positive about his summer league experience.

“I enjoyed it,” Smart said after scoring a game-high 20 points in a 95-86 loss to the Indiana Pacers in the third-place game in Orlando. “It was fun. It was great experience, even though we didn’t win today, but it was good to get out here and gel with these guys.”

Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart shot 6 for 18 from the floor in his summer league finale Friday.
Boston’s No. 6 pick in the 2014 NBA draft filled up the box score in five games of action in Orlando, averaging 14.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in each contest. Smart’s contributions in all aspects of the game were widely praised by his summer league head coach Jay Larranaga.

“Marcus reinforced a lot of things we were hoping for when we drafted him,” Larranaga said when asked about Smart’s play. “He’s a tremendous competitor and teammate. He’s really skilled in all areas. He can dribble, pass, shoot, defend, rebound. ... We’re really happy with his performance.”

While there were plenty of bright spots for the 20-year-old, the guard’s week did not come without its fair share of blemishes. Smart shot a team-low 29.4 percent from the field and 25.7 percent from 3-point range, giving additional fuel to critics questioning his shooting range and shot selection on the NBA level.

Despite the ugly numbers, Larranaga defended Smart’s showing for the week from an offensive standpoint.

“I don’t think he was the only one missing a fair amount of shots at summer league,” Larranaga said of Smart’s woes. “That’s part of summer league, the intensity and pressure on these guys that they feel. Either it’s their first opportunity to play for an NBA team or they are trying to play for an NBA team so I think that’s pretty normal. We saw glimpses of him at times having it going. He was starting to feel more comfortable so I was feel really confident he’s going to be a solid offensive player.”

Smart will have plenty of chances to work on his shot and other aspects of his game during the remaining months of the offseason. He’ll spent some time in Texas with his family before getting back to work in Boston, an opportunity he will relish in his quest to improve his game.

“It’s going to be something you take day by day,” Smart said of strengthening his play. “It’s not going to happen overnight. You are going to struggle and get down. You are going to feel like you almost want to give up but that’s when you make who you are. ... It’s going to make me a better person for it.”

MOSER GETS TRAINING CAMP INVITE: Undrafted rookie forward Mike Moser arrived in Orlando looking to prove he deserves an opportunity to play in the NBA next season. After a terrific week of performances for the Celtics summer league squad, Moser now knows he will get that chance with at least one NBA team.

The former Oregon Duck confirmed to reporters after another strong effort (16 points, 10 rebounds, two steals) Friday that the Celtics had extended him a training camp invitation for this fall.

“They were really excited about my progress,” Moser said about the feedback he got from the Celtics. “Danny Ainge had a lot of nice things to say about me. Basically it’s just a waiting game. I’m a free agent so we will see what happens.”

Moser was perhaps the most consistent all-around player on the Celtics summer league team this week, posting 13.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. He led the team in 3-point shooting (42.3 percent) as he took advantage of pick-and-pop action with Phil Pressey and Smart.

“It was good,” Moser said of how his game translated to the NBA level. “We played a lot of talented guys. Obviously we were talented and competitive. I feel like the NBA game opens up a little bit more than the college game with the spacing and driving lanes. It makes the game a lot easier.”

Moser later added: “I tried to play as solid as I could and show I could play multiple positions and stretch the defense with my range and defend. I think I did that for the most part.”

Now a waiting game begins for Moser, who indicated he was not sure whether he would accept Boston’s invitation to camp. The Celtics have a very crowded frontcourt depth chart at the moment, which would make it challenging for Moser to make the Boston roster.

The forward will not play in Las Vegas Summer League and instead hope his strong performance in Orlando will be enough to convince another team to give him a chance in camp this fall.

ROSTER DECISION LOOMS FOR PRESSEY: Friday was the last day for a number of players with non-guaranteed contracts on Boston’s summer league roster to make a final impression on team’s front office and coaching staff.

After Thursday’s trade, the Celtics now have 17 players under contract, but three of those players (Chris Babb, Chris Johnson, Pressey) have deals that are not guaranteed.

Johnson (three points on 1-of-7 shooting) and Babb (0 points in 22 minutes) did not do much to help their cause. Pressey is the name to watch in the interim though, as the Celtics have a deadline of July 15th to decide whether they want to fully guarantee his $947,246 salary for next season or waive him.

The second-year point guard point guard bounced back from a 1-for-15 outing Thursday night and closed out strong Friday with the team, posting 12 points and 13 assists in 30 minutes off the bench.

“There’s only so much you can control,” Pressey said of the team’s roster situation. “We control playing. I have no control and nobody else on the team has control of the transactions. You can’t get too caught up in it. You just worry about playing basketball.”