BOSTON (CBS) – In the wake of an outburst on the Celtics bench Tuesday night, Marcus Smart did not start Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets at the TD Garden.
The decision to bench Smart for Jaylen Brown had nothing to do with Smart’s heated argument with Celtics assistants Tuesday according to the head coach
“We’re going to start differently tonight but that’s because I want to start differently,” Brad Stevens said Wednesday night.
While Stevens downplayed the decision, the move put a spotlight on Smart’s behavior on the Boston bench, a situation that climaxed with the third-year guard being sent back to the locker room early by the head coach.
“I think, ultimately, we had a lot of talk today and we’ll continue that discussion,” Stevens said of the aftermath. “But, at the end of the day, we’ll handle what we need to handle in an internal way. And I do think that Marcus’ greatest strength is that he’s very willful. He is very competitive, he wants to do really well, and it eats at him when it doesn’t go his way. You just can’t cross that line.
“He knew it, and you guys saw what he wrote and what he said [afterwards]. He was like that when I got in the locker room. Sometimes it just takes a minute to gather yourself and then recognize that you could have handled things differently.”
To his credit, Smart responded to the benching well on Wednesday, on and off the floor. The third-year guard played 31 minutes off the pine, posting 7 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals while earning a second half start in place of Brown. Instead of complaining about his demotion, Smart responded with a forceful performance that set the tone for his team defensively.
In the aftermath of the Rockets win, Smart also remained apologetic about his actions that caused headlines following the Wizards loss.
“I’m an emotional player. I give my all every night,” Smart continued. “I went about it the wrong way, let my emotions get the best of me. My coaches and teammates know the kind of person I am, what I mean, and I mean good things. It’s in the past, we’re moving on, and it helped us tonight.”
The key for the 22-year-old will be to sustain this sign of maturation in the upcoming weeks. Avery Bradley is expected to be sidelined for at least another week with his Achilles’ injury, which means the Celtics will need to be able to count on their other defensive stopper in the backcourt even more than usual.
The 6-foot-4 guard wants to see his teammates get back to their defensive roots as they make a push for the second seed in the Eastern Conference prior to the All-Star break and he’s encouraged by the progress they showed by containing the high-scoring Rockets for most of the night.