There’s been a stray question here and there over the past couple of years, but the inquiries became more frequent and more pointed as the calendar turned to 2018.

What have you heard about Marcus Smart away from the court?

What kind of guy is he with his teammates?

How is he to you guys (media)?

Does he stay after practice and work?

Opposing scouts and personnel people higher on organizational charts wanted to know. They wanted as much information as possible.

That’s generally been my indication over the years that a player is available in a trade, but that wasn’t so much the case here as February’s deadline approached. As one GM put it, “He’s too valuable to Boston anyway, but you could never give them what they’d be looking for when the guy’s going to be a free agent.”

In this case, Smart will be a restricted free agent, which gives the Celtics the opportunity to match any offer he receives in the marketplace. But this is more what the opponents had – and have – in mind.

And therein lies the who-knows-how-many-million-dollar question. Teams are wondering what they can offer that the Celtics won’t match, but they’re also wondering how much is too much.

Danny Ainge is obviously hoping that the gold rush of recent years has dried up to a large extent and that Smart won’t attract a crazy bid. The prevailing thinking around the NBA is that there won’t be any Evan Turner deals (four years/$70 million) flying around.

Especially – and, again, this is Ainge’s hope – not for a guy with career shooting percentages of .360 overall and .293 from 3-point range.

But, analytics be damned, everyone seems to covet a guy like Smart, who plays so hard and brings out the same in his teammates. It’s apparently not hard for even some of the top teams to picture the spark that Smart could give their rotation.

But how much will those teams have to spend, and how much can they commit to Smart?

And are they willing to, like Brad Stevens and the Celtics, accept Smart’s shot selection and accuracy issues?

One thing’s for certain, Marcus isn’t going to change. While the odds are still that he will remain a Celtic, it’s a lock that if he does, the vocal anxiety of the fans with his shot will continue.

Smart told the Boston Herald he’s well aware of the groans and involuntary (and voluntary) vocal harmony of “N-o-o-o-o-” that arises from the Garden seating area as he lines up a trey.

Smart went on to point out that his late-season shooting (.336 overall, .221 on 3s) was hindered by the splint for the thumb injury sustained when he crashed the floor for a loose ball against the Pacers in March.

“And I came back like two months earlier than I should have,” he said.

Hard to argue any of that, but we will take issue with the notion that his game isn’t popular. Playing as hard and selfless as Smart does is a skill, particularly when you do it as consistently as Smart.

In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that shooting numbers notwithstanding, fans identify with him.

He’s more popular among Celtics fans than some of his mates with bigger talent.

And he’s very popular, too, among those who would steal him away from the Celtics.