BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics were without Marcus Smart on Wednesday night, with the Boston guard slapped with a one-game suspension for “directing threatening language” toward a game official on Tuesday. It’s a suspension that Danny Ainge isn’t sure was warranted.
Smart was clearly frustrated during and after Boston’s embarrassing loss to the Thunder on Tuesday night. But having a spat with an official after the whistle is a big no-no in the NBA, and Smart is no stranger to the league’s disciplinarians. Still, Ainge doesn’t think the Celtics should have been without their defensive leader for Wednesday night’s win over Charlotte.READ MORE: Padres Reportedly Close To Acquiring Rumored Red Sox Trade Target Max Scherzer
“I’m not sure that I can say that I agree with the fact that they chose they suspend him. I’m not sure that was warranted,” Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich. “But that’s their prerogative. You cant do that; have an interaction with the officials. We all know that.”
Brad Stevens was forced to shorten his lineup Wednesday night without Smart and point guard Kemba Walker, and the Celtics responded with a 120-111 win. Smart has been in the crosshairs of Celtics fans quite a bit this season, and the team winning without him on Wednesday certainly doesn’t help.
But Ainge went to bat for Smart on Thursday morning.READ MORE: Baseball Hall Of Fame Denies Curt Schilling's Request To Be Removed From Ballot
“Marcus is just an emotional kid. He plays with his emotions on his sleeve and was very frustrated by a couple of calls that I thought he should be frustrated with. Ideally, we don’t want him to have conversations with officials as they’re leaving the court,” he said.
“But Marcus has grown a lot and been fantastic the last few weeks, showing leadership,” Ainge added. “I’m not going to 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, inspiring players on the court.”
Ainge scoffed that Smart’s poor shot selection — he’s shooting just 33.7 percent from three-point range, averaging six threes per game this year — is hurting the team this season.
“I think there are a lot of guys on our team that have had rough stretches this year; being asked to do more than they normally do that haven’t had great games. When you’re missing four of your top 6-7 players in your rotation, a lot of people are forced to do more and you don’t have the supporting cast to get it done,” he explained. “We’ve seen some of that this year, but I would not say that Marcus has regressed.”MORE NEWS: Patriots Have Zero Players In Top 50 Of NFL Jersey And Merchandise Sales; Tom Brady Tops List
Smart will be back in the Boston lineup Friday night when the Celtics host the San Antonio Spurs.