The Boston Celtics were thrown a late curveball ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets. Already down Kemba Walker due to a left oblique strain, the Cs were then stripped of the services of fellow guard Marcus Smart shortly prior to tipoff, when the NBA announced that the 27-year-old had been suspended for one game after “directing threatening language toward a game official.”
While Boston was ultimately able to overcome their short-handed rotation — thanks in large part to a breakout performance from Aaron Nesmith — the team’s President of Basketball Operations still clearly has a gripe with the league’s decision to disciple his two-time All-NBA defender.
“I’m not sure that I can say that I agree with the fact that they chose to suspend him,” Danny Ainge said on Thursday during his weekly segment on Toucher and Rich on 98.5. “I’m not sure that was warranted.”
With that said, Ainge knows that Smart needs to do a better job of getting out of his own way. “That’s their (the NBA) prerogative,” he noted. “You can’t do that. You can’t have an interaction with an official. We all know that.”
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Postgame Interaction Led to Smart’s Suspension
Tuesday was an infuriating night for all Celtics players, as the team handed the Oklahoma City Thunder their first win in 15 games. This reigns especially true for the former No. 6 overall selection, who knocked down just 4-of-17 field goal attempts and 1-of-10 3-point attempts on the night. Smart’s frustration boiled over in the fourth quarter when he got hit with a technical foul for jawing at officials. However, as the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn detailed, it was Smart’s continued words for official James Williams following the contest that ultimately got him suspended — a notion Ainge backed during his segment.
Official James Williams was the target of Marcus Smart's ire. Williams gave him a tech with 7:48 left in the 4Q Tuesday and Smart had some more words for Williams postgame. With Smart's long track record with issues with officials and other players, he got suspended. #Celtics
— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) April 28, 2021
Ainge Applauds Smart’s Leadership
As we all know, Smart is a fiery competitor. There’s a reason why he’s readily alluded to as the heart and soul of the team. His competitive fortitude is what separates the guard on the hardwood. However, it can also lead to Smart finding himself in situations such as Tuesday night.
“Marcus, he’s just an emotional kid,” said Ainge. “He plays with his emotion on his sleeve and he was very frustrated with a couple calls that I think he should’ve been frustrated with. Ideally, we don’t want him having conversations with officials post-game as they’re leaving the court.”
Despite the suspension, Ainge is proud of the development Smart has recently shown both on the court and off It.
“Marcus has grown a lot,” Ainge said. “He’s been fantastic the last few weeks actually. Showing some leadership. I’m not gonna make a bigger deal out of this than it is. It’s another learning lesson for Marcus but he’s doing much better as a leader and inspiring teammates on the court, and that’s what’s important.”
Smart is in the midst of a career campaign, posting career-highs in both points (13.6) and assists (5.5) while shooting 40.4% from the field and 33.7% from 3-point range.