SALT LAKE CITY — Marcus Smart returned to the Celtics Monday, his heart heavy after another passing in his tight-knit family.
Smart left the team Saturday to attend the funeral of his cousin, Vincent Dorsey, 49, who was murdered on Jan. 15 in DeSoto, Texas. Two suspects have been apprehended in the slaying.
Smart, who has lost several family members in his 20 years, told the Globe Monday that it was a blessing to see his family, but not under these conditions.
“It was crazy, and it was sad it had to be under those circumstances,” he said while preparing for the Celtics’ matchup with the Jazz. “It was good seeing my family but it was a tough day for us. Everybody understood that we’ve got to get past it but it’s going to take time. But that’s why you have family.”
Smart said he found out about Dorsey’s death before the Celtics played Chicago on Jan. 16. He left the team after Friday’s win over Denver and missed Sunday’s loss to Golden State. He met the team in Salt Lake City on Sunday night.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Smart was allowed to take as much time as needed.
“That’s our whole organizational policy,” he said. “I’m pleased that I work for an organization that does that. The important thing without a doubt will always take precedence so it was a no-brainer to go.”
Smart said Dorsey was discovered face-down, shot in the back, in his apartment complex. Dorsey was the son of Smart’s aunt.
“I just didn’t say anything about it [after I found out],” he said. “No parent wants to have to bury their kid. They always think they should go before their kid. It’s how you want it to be but sometimes God has a different plan.”
Smart lost his half-brother, Todd Westbrook, to cancer 10 years ago. He has also lost his former AAU teammate and a 5-year-old relative to an accidental shooting several years ago.
Family is crucial to Smart, he said. One of the first accomplishments of his NBA career was purchasing a home for his mother Camellia in suburban Dallas. He told reporters last month that he was saddened that he was spending his first Christmas away from his family.
“Everybody has problems with their family but no matter what you’re going through, family is family, they can be taken away from you just as fast as they were there with you,” he said. “And it’s crazy, you see or hear it all the time, people get in fights with one of their siblings and then they pass and they never really get to say they were sorry. And it’s the truth. That’s how it goes. You just got to really be careful with what you wish and what you say about your family.”
Smart said he last spoke with Dorsey on New Years’ Eve after the Celtics’ win over the Sacramento Kings.
“And then a couple of days later, bam, he’s gone,” Smart said. “It’s crazy because he just lost his nephew a year or two ago, got shot and killed, too. The family was still trying to get over that and then this happened.”
Chances for Pressey
He’s been waiting for his opportunity, and those opportunities aren’t consistent. Phil Pressey understands that with the plethora of changes in the Celtics organization the past few weeks, his development will depend solely on his hard work.
Pressey scored 15 points over the past two games, including 9 in 16 minutes in Sunday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors. He did not play the previous two games. In the two games before that, he combined for 15 points and five assists in 26 minutes.
So the pattern with Pressey is there is no pattern to when the Celtics need him.
“I mean I’ve just got to stay ready,” he said. “The toughest thing is trying to keep your wind and keep your condition up. It’s not hard for me to come in and make an impact in the game. It’s hard to stay conditioned because I like to play fast and pressure the ball, so that’s my biggest part is trying to stay ready.”
Pressey began the season 6 for his first 30 from the 3-point line but is 6 for 12 this month. He is playing more comfortable and relaxed in his second season. “It’s all about playing and getting reps up and getting confidence out there,” he said.
Was it a foul?
James Young is learning the hard way that being a rookie does not afford you any luxuries on the court. Take Sunday, when he darted toward Stephen Curry after the All-Star point guard made a steal and then took a shoulder to the chest as Curry released a 50-footer to beat the halftime buzzer.
The buzzer sounded, a few moments passed, and official Scott Wall approached the scorer’s table and told both teams to remain on the court. He called a foul on Young with 0.6 seconds left, awarding Curry three free throws.
Curry, one of the league’s top free throw shooters, converted all three to give Golden State a 56-49 lead.
It gave the Warriors the momentum heading into halftime and prompted Stevens to scream “That’s [expletive] awful” at Wall.
“I haven’t even watched it,” Stevens said. “It’s a 48-minute game. I don’t think a call 24 minutes before the game ends affects the outcome. We’ve got to respond better and figure out a way to make up the deficit.”
The Celtics are 36 for 54 from the free throw line in the past two games and poor shooting from the stripe almost cost them a victory Friday in Denver. Stevens said he is not concerned. “I will not lose one ounce of sleep on free throw shooting,” he said. “These guys are professional basketball players. We’ll get better at the time. We’ll shoot it better. The law of averages will play itself out.” . . . Avery Bradley had his right hand wrapped (bruised) and left thumb wrapped (bruised) after Sunday’s game but was OK to play Monday against the Jazz.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.