Celtics Offseason

Smart talks importance of building relationship with Ja Morant

"I love to push guys to the limit."

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Marcus Smart was officially introduced as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, roughly two weeks after being traded by Celtics in the three-team deal that brought Kristaps Porzingis to Boston.

The longtime C's guard was in good spirits as he reflected on his time with Boston and looked forward to a "fresh start" in Memphis. He discussed the leadership he hopes to bring to a young Grizzlies squad, which includes one of the NBA's brightest -- albeit embattled -- stars: Ja Morant.

Morant has twice been suspended by the league for displaying a firearm on social media, including for the first 25 games of the 2023-24 season. Smart emphasized the importance of building a relationship with the 23-year-old in an effort to help him get his career back on track.

"Oh, it's huge. It's huge," Smart said. "Ja is a very special player. Very special player and he's very important to this team. And for us to do anything great, we're gonna need Ja. And we're gonna need Ja to be the best he can be.

"So, for me, as a competitor I love to push guys to the limit. Especially a guy who's great. I've done it over in Boston with those guys and those are my brothers. So I wanna be able to have that same relationship with Ja because, like I said, he's a great player and we're gonna need him to do what we wanna do."

Despite his experience, which includes five Eastern Conference Finals berths and a trip to the NBA Finals, Smart doesn't expect to take command of Memphis' locker room from Day 1.

"I've got to earn these guys' trust," he said. "In Boston, I was there. I was the longest-tenured guy. I grew up with those guys. Here, I'm a new face coming in, although I have some experience on me. But as competitors, you see a new guy coming in, guys aren't just going to give me their attention right away. They're going to have to earn it. And that's what I expect to do."

In addition to his leadership, Smart will bring his All-NBA defense and unmatched hustle to the Grizzlies' backcourt. The 29-year-old will bring an element of toughness to Memphis that Boston will miss next season, its first without the veteran guard in nearly a decade.

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