news 5 days ago

Celtics' Marcus Smart speaks out on officiating, heated exchange with Brad Stevens

Sporting News — (Jordan Greer)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Marcus Smart made his feelings about NBA officials clear Thursday night.

"If they won't protect me, I will," he said.

The Celtics guard was highly critical of the officiating crew after Boston's 108-87 win over the Hornets at the Spectrum Center. Smart's frustration boiled over in the fourth quarter when he was shoved to the floor by Charlotte forward Miles Bridges, who earned a technical foul following a review, but his complaints went well beyond that push. He claims referees treat him differently than other players.

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"I wish they would call the game the right way," Smart said. "A lot of the calls that they called, I didn't understand where the fouls were. It just seems like whenever I get the ball and I'm on offense, I can't get a call. With Bridges pushing, stuff like that — and I told him, I said, 'If it was me, y'all [would] probably throw me out the game and everything. So either you clear it up, or I will.'

"I allowed y'all, I gave y'all the time. Y'all keep telling me, 'Let us handle it. Let us handle it.' I'm coming to y'all first, but at some point, as a player, as a man, you've got to protect yourself. . . . If that means I've got to lose a little bit of money, I've got to lose a little bit of money."

Smart found himself in foul trouble midway through the third quarter when he was hit with his fourth and fifth fouls on consecutive possessions. That led to a substitution and a heated exchange between Smart and Celtics coach Brad Stevens as Smart walked toward the bench.

"At some point, you've got to step in and say something as a coach," Smart said. "But since you won't, I've got to. And I understand from Brad's standpoint, but at the same time, [from] the player's standpoint, you've got to step in."

The tension didn't last long, though, as Smart and Stevens smoothed things over during a break in the action. 

"This is the part about Marcus that I love — his fire, his competitiveness," Stevens said. "If there's a moment when he's upset with us, that's all part of it. We move on pretty quickly. We've been together a long time, and I've been yelled at before, and that's OK. I love him and I trust him, and he'll get every opportunity."

Smart, who has spent his entire career in Boston since being drafted sixth overall by the team in 2014, brushed off the back-and-forth with Stevens as one of their "little moments" and said that once it's over, "we go on to the next one."

Both Smart and Stevens understand these incidents can happen with such a fiery player. Smart's impact and contributions to winning usually outweigh the occasional outburst. Look no further than a typically Smart stat line from Thursday's game: six points, five assists, two rebounds, two steals and and a plus-10 in 22 minutes.

Unfortunately for Smart, the NBA may not be nearly as forgiving as Stevens.

"I don't back down from any challenge," Smart said. "Like I said, if I have to lose a bit of money to show that and prove, to protect myself, then I'm just going to have to lose a little bit of money."