It’s a question that’s in the back of the minds of most Celtics fans, following one controversial week for Smart. And for the Marcus naysayers out there — no, this has nothing to do with his shooting touch, it’s more about Smart’s biggest problem lately; which is staying out of trouble.
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After getting into it with an NBA official during the Celtics’ 119-115 loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Marcus reportedly decided to continue his chat with a referee after the game and ultimately received a one-game suspension without pay for “threatening language toward a game official.”
The timing couldn’t have been any worse for Brad Stevens and the Celtics, who found out about Smart’s suspension only hours before taking on the Charlotte Hornets. On a night where the starting lineup was already thin without Kemba Walker, backup point guard Tremont Waters got the start.
Fortunately for Stevens, Boston managed without Smart and Walker; topping the Hornets 120-111.
Celtics’ Brad Stevens On Marcus Smart’s Ejection: ‘That Was A Physical Play’
Then, Smart followed that up with a controversial foul in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ 129-119 loss against the Portland Trail Blazers, where he was ejected for hitting Jusuf Nurkic in the groin area.
“That was a physical play, I haven’t seen the replay, yet,” Stevens said after the Celtics’ loss to the Trail Blazers, Sunday. “I’ll look at the replay and we’ll address that internally. But, obviously, that was a big play at a big moment.”
Brad Stevens to Marcus Smart: ‘Impact The Ball Without Fouling’
After team practice, Tuesday, the Celtics head coach was asked about Smart’s defensive intensity.
“We need all five guys to play with great intensity and great physicality, great toughness, great poise, you know; all of those things,” Stevens said. “Marcus, obviously, has impacted us for a lot of years in those ways. We need him to be a guy, especially at the head of our defense on a lot of occasions, that can impact the ball without fouling.”
The crucial foul on Nurkic — which is difficult to gauge if was definitively intentional — cost the Celtics a key defender in Smart, who was ejected with under six minutes left to play.
Brad Stevens On Marcus Smart in April: ‘Some Of His Best Basketball He’s Played All Year’
Stevens, who wouldn’t weigh in on whether he considered Marcus’ foul on Nurkic malicious enough to warrant ejecting Smart at a crucial time, credited the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team recipient for his play, of late, despite Marcus’ recent transgression.
“There will be times where he’s guarding bigger guys and times where he’s guarding smaller and we just need him to continue to do that,” Stevens added. “Obviously, he didn’t play in the Charlotte game, and I thought he did some good things up until the end of the Portland game.
“But, before the Charlotte game — I’d say, those couple of weeks, maybe before the Oklahoma City game — he was having some of his best basketball that he’s played all year.”
Smart cannot keep getting himself into trouble. Boston needs him now more than ever — on both ends of the floor, in the locker room, and most importantly, during the postseason — which according to Stevens, has only just begun.