Jayson Tatum reacts to Marcus Smart’s emotional return to Boston originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The only thing that overshadowed Jayson Tatum’s spectacular performance vs. the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night was Marcus Smart’s anticipated return to TD Garden.
Smart made his first appearance at his former arena since being traded to the Grizzlies last summer. As anticipated, it was an emotional night filled with tributes to the longtime Boston Celtics guard.
The Garden crowd showered Smart with cheers before the opening tip and gave him a standing ovation as he walked onto the court and greeted his ex-teammates. During the first quarter, the Celtics took a moment to celebrate Smart’s nine-year tenure with the organization with a heartfelt tribute video that featured some of his most memorable moments.
Later, Smart was awarded the Celtics’ “Hero Among Us” honor for his countless charitable contributions. The loyal fans in attendance gave several standing ovations throughout the night along with enthusiastic “We love Marcus” and “Thank you, Marcus” chants.
Tatum enjoyed every moment of the love Smart received in his return. He spoke on the special occasion after the Celtics’ 131-91 win with NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin.
“It was great. It was great to see the reception that he got,” Tatum told Chin. “Being here for 10 years, he was the heart and soul of this organization. People showed their respect and love today, he deserved it. He deserved it all. It was just good to see him. Obviously, I miss him. But it was just really good to see him.”
During Tatum’s interview, fans gave Smart another thunderous ovation as he walked off the floor. It isn’t lost on Tatum just how much Smart meant to the city.
“It’s only right,” Tatum said of the cheers for Smart. “He gave his blood, sweat, and tears every single night. He left it all on the floor. He was part of the success that we had for so many years. For the longest time, he was for sure the favorite Celtic, and rightfully so. So it was good to see him get the love that he deserved.”
Although Smart couldn’t suit up against his former team due to a finger injury, it undoubtedly was a night he won’t forget.
Tatum had himself a memorable night as well. The five-time All-Star erupted for 34 points in three quarters — he was benched the entire fourth with a big lead — and shot 12-of-22 from the floor, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range. He came just two rebounds and three assists shy of a triple-double in 31 minutes.
This was the Celtics’ final meeting with the Grizzlies this season, so Smart will have to wait until next year to take on Tatum and his former team.
Boston will have two days off before welcoming the Atlanta Hawks to TD Garden on Wednesday night.