CHARLOTTE — Marcus Smart keeps noting that he does not want to cost himself needless money in the form of fines this season. But after Thursday night, and what he believes is a double-standard by NBA officials, and a perceived lack of support by his coaches, the Celtics guard couldn’t help himself.
“They definitely treat me differently. I mean, everybody sees it, I mean, but I’m not going to sit here and talk about it because talking about it is going to lose me money, and the game is over, so I’ll calm down,” he said. “But I’ve just got to keep playing. Like I said, if they won’t protect me, I will.”
Thursday night’s trigger point came late in the third quarter, when Smart picked up his fourth and fifth fouls over a span of 11 seconds. The first was a foul on Charlotte’s Devonte’ Graham, and the second a charge. Smart got into a hot exchange with Brad Stevens and assistant coach Jay Larranaga before taking a seat near the end of the bench. Smart said he wanted Stevens to say something to the officials.
“I just was telling him, you know, especially when everything is going that way, like, they’re just picking and picking, and it’s like they’re eyeing on me and it’s like they are doing it on purpose, so I’m telling them like, ‘at some point you have to step in and say something as a coach. But since you won’t, I’ve got to,’” said Smart. “I understand from Brad’s standpoint, but at the same time, from the player’s standpoint, like, you’ve got to step in.
“Me and Brad, that’s our relationship. We’ve been in it six years, so we have those little moments, and it’s over and over, it’s done with and we move on to the next one.”
Smart was still hot when, with 8:50 left in the fourth, he was pushed out of bounds by Charlotte’s Miles Bridges. An irate Smart jumped to his feet and had to be blocked by referee Leon Wood from reaching Bridges.
“I wish they would call the game the right way, you know? A lot of calls that they called, I didn’t understand where the fouls were,” he said. “And it just seems like whenever I get the ball and I’m on offense, I can’t get a call, so, you know, and with the Bridges push and stuff like that, I told them, I said, ‘If it was me, y’all would probably throw me out the game and everything.’”
So you clean 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. Nobody else is going to protect yourself, you’ve got to protect yourself. So if that means I’ve got to lose a little bit of money, then I’ve got to lose a bit.”
Rozier seeing results in Charlotte
Terry Rozier’s landing in Charlotte is producing the kind of volume the former Celtic envisioned.
He’s playing an average of 32.7 minutes a night and filling that kind of opportunity with volume across the board — 16.9 points, 5.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds. Though Rozier’s first real game against his old team did not live up to those standards Thursday night — he shot 1-for-10 in a three-point performance — his fit in Charlotte has been relatively seamless.
“He’s been great from Day 1. I feel like he’s gotten acclimated quite quickly,” said Hornets forward Marvin Williams. “I think he feels really comfortable now. He’s doing a great job leading us on both ends of the court offensively and defensively. I’m sure it’ll be an emotional time for him too, obviously playing against your old team is always fun. But he’s been playing really well and I expect him to come out and play hard.”
Williams was referring to Thursday night’s game against the Celtics — Rozier’s first real game against his former team, though he broke the ice with an exhibition appearance at TD Garden.
“Yeah, it’s a little bit easier, it’s a little bit easier. I feel like I needed it, to get that out the way,” Rozier said. “Obviously, it’s still going to be a bit different when I go there.”
And what the Celtics are finding is a former teammate who loves his leadership role and emergence in the offense in Charlotte.
“Guys welcomed me with open arms, so I’m just taking it day by day, still learning and finding my way,” he said. “I’m just trying to get better with my guys, connecting with the coach, see what we can do to keep improving. It’s a long season, so as far as myself, just trying to take care of my body and prepare for these minutes I’ll be playing this whole season.”
Rozier is impressed by what he sees in the other locker room.
“Them guys are good,” Rozier said of the Celtics. “They’re good at adjusting. So we just go out there and try to be the harder playing team and get the win.
“They just got a lot of guys that can play,” he said. “I see Gordon (Hayward) is playing very well this year, Kemba (Walker) is playing unbelievable, Jaylen, JT, I can go down the line, all them guys that’s just ball players.”