NBA: Celtics re-sign Smart to 4-year, $52 million deal

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics have re-signed guard Marcus Smart.

The 6-foot-4 defensive stalwart is returning to the team that picked him sixth overall in the 2014 draft after finding the market for a restricted free agent wasn’t as lucrative as he’d hoped.

A person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press that Smart signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Celtics. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Thursday because the team did not disclose the terms of the contract.

Smart averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game this season. He returned from thumb surgery late in the first round of the playoffs and provided the defensive presence that was instrumental in the Celtics taking the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.

LeBron James called Smart’s creativity on the court “uncanny” during their matchup and coach Brad Stevens said Smart was “as tough as tough as they come,” making hustle plays on offense being disruptive on defense.

He also has been a locker-room favorite among his teammates for the past four seasons, bringing a needed edge and in-your-face style on the court.

Those intangibles aside, Smart entered the summer in limbo with Boston remaining mostly quiet as free agency began. The Celtics quickly agreed to a two-year, $11 million deal with veteran big man Aron Baynes. The slow movement on Smart left open the possibility they might let him test the market and then decide whether to match any offers.

General manager Danny Ainge said immediately after the season that fears of a luxury tax bill wouldn’t factor into the team’s decision of whether to bring back players. But as the roster currently stands, Boston will be on the hook to be taxed next season.

Finances will continue to be an issue with Gordon Hayward signed to a four-year, $128 million deal, Kyrie Irving set to become a free agent after next season and several salary-friendly rookie contracts set to expire over the next few seasons.

Still, for now, the core of the team that won 55 games and was the surprise of the East even with Hayward sidelined last season is intact to try to make another run. (AP) Photo by Mark Pijanowski