An ankle injury suffered during Smart’s fifth NBA game sidelined him for the better part of a month, and while the 21-year-old went on to play in 67 of Boston’s 82 games, he never quite returned to 100 percent.
“Last year, my ankle injury held me back from a lot of things,” Smart said, via the Boston Herald, before the Celtics departed for Utah to begin summer league play. “I couldn’t do a lot of things that I was capable of doing in college, like getting to the rim. It kind of slowed me down. Now that my ankle’s healing up, I’m getting to the rim. I’m beating people off the dribble and making plays like I was in college.
“It just feels good. And I understand there’s going to be a lot more expected out of me this year, so I’m just trying to get better as an individual and for the team.”
Smart, who averaged 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game as a rookie, said his preparation for the upcoming season included studying the Golden State Warriors during their run to the NBA championship.
“You watch the Finals, and it’s no wonder why those guys are there,” Smart said, via the Herald. “The superstars, they’ve worked. They’ve been doing it the right way. So as a young player coming in, you look at that and that’s what you want to be. You try to follow in those footsteps and work like that.
“You want to sit down and watch it as a fan, but you find yourself analyzing it. Like, ‘OK, this is how they guarded that, and that didn’t work. How would I guard it?’ You put yourself in those situations and try to figure out how you should handle them.”
The Celtics begin their summer league schedule Monday against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.