Celtics guard Marcus Smart and Warriors forward Draymond Green have drawn comparisons for their fiery, physical, competitive approaches, and when their teams met in the NBA Finals last June they made their mutual admiration known.
“Every team will tell you,” Smart said then. “They might not tell you right up front, but they’ll tell you, ‘Marcus and Draymond are two guys we would love to have on our team and two guys we would hate to play against.’ ”
But agitators can get caught up in conflicts within a team, too. Last Wednesday, Green and Warriors guard Jordan Poole had an altercation during practice that ended when Green struck Poole in the face. Video of the incident, leaked to TMZ.com, showed Poole slumping to the ground after being hit.
Green on Saturday issued a public apology and said he will step away from the Warriors for a few days. The four-time All-Star has not been officially suspended.
Smart said incidents sometimes happen behind closed doors at team practices, and he wishes this one had stayed there.
“It happens,” Smart said. “Just like if it’s your brother or your sister. You love them, you like them, you don’t wish nothing bad on them, but a couple times here and there you’re going to put your hands on them, and sometimes you do. So, it happens. But obviously, you wish it didn’t, and you wish it didn’t come out like it did.”
Smart said he did not know details about the situation in Golden State, but acknowledged that from what he saw on the video, Green went too far.
“I know Draymond, as good as he is as a player and as a person, he made a mistake,” he said. “I think we can all say that from what we know. As a leader, you can’t do that, especially when guys are looking up to you and looking to you for advice and encouragement. [Don’t] go that route, but definitely keep that fire and stay on them. But he’s got to know when to cool off and when to back it down.”
Smart said that if two teammates have issues with each other, they should address them away from the court, before things fester.
“When you come in here in this gym and you step in between these lines, you’re family, and everything else goes out the window until you step off this court,” Smart said. “That’s how it should be, and I think that’s how you handle it.”
Vonleh making the most of opportunity
Veteran forward Noah Vonleh appears positioned to secure one of Boston’s final roster spots. After working with the second unit in the Celtics’ first two preseason games, Vonleh started against the Hornets Friday and registered 14 points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes.
Vonleh, the ninth pick of the 2014 draft, played for seven teams over seven NBA seasons before playing in China last year. The Haverhill native said his agent received a call from the Celtics in August, and the chance to fight for a regular roster spot was too good to pass up.
He dealt with a hamstring injury last month but is now healthy and determined to prove that he belongs.
“The journey continues,” Vonleh said. “I don’t know if this will be the last stop, but I’m happy to be here now. I’m just staying in the moment, staying in the now.”
Vonleh, 27, spent three seasons with the Trail Blazers playing alongside star guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. But he said Boston’s duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is even more dynamic, and he is focused on making their jobs easier.
”The biggest key when I check into the game and I’m on the floor with those guys is just getting a little angle, trying to get those guys open, using my body to create angles, get them the mismatch,” Vonleh said. “And if they want to throw it in there if I have a guard on me, we’ll exploit that also.”
Kornet on the mend, likely to play Friday
Celtics center Luke Kornet, who has been sidelined for a week because of a sprained ankle, took part in the non-contact portions of Sunday’s practice. Interim coach Joe Mazzulla said Kornet will likely play in Friday’s preseason finale against the Raptors.