NEW YORK — It’s been a learning experience over the past 48 hours for Marcus Smart, who admitted that his shot to the groin of Spurs forward Matt Bonner “looked a little intentional.”
Smart was back in the lineup for Monday night’s 110-91 win over the Nets after his NBA-mandated one-game suspension. The rookie played 23 minutes with 2 points, 2 steals, and 1 rebound after sitting out Sunday’s overtime loss to the Pistons at TD Garden.
“It’s been crazy, watching the game from last night and trying to get to prepare for [Monday],” he said. “It’s been a little up and down for me.”
When asked to assess the flagrant foul three days later, Smart said, “I can definitely see where it comes off to where the NBA made the decision. I respect the decision. I gotta live with it. Looking at the film, it does look a little intentional. But that’s not who I am. I’m not a dirty player.
“The NBA made the right decision and I’m just glad to be back out there tonight.”
Smart now has two Flagrant 2 fouls — after his elbow to the face of Orlando’s Elfrid Payton March 8 — and would receive a one-game suspension with his next Flagrant 2.
“No, not at all,” Smart said when asked if he is worried about his reputation. “I know I’m not [a dirty player]. I am a physical player, no doubt about that, but a dirty player? That’s not my reputation.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he expects Smart to return as aggressive but more aware of his emotions.
“From what I saw on video and from you all saw, it was an unacceptable play that was dealt with by the league in that manner,” Stevens said. “He’s an incredibly tough-minded kid that can still play that way and not make that mistake that he did the other night. In the midst of competition, we don’t always make the best decision.
“I would love to give him the benefit of the doubt on that being a 21-year-old. It’s something you try to help him through, continue to promote his strengths and help him manage that moment better. As far as the type of person he’s been around us and in the locker room, to coach, he’s been a joy to have around.”
It appears that Isaiah Thomas will make his long-awaited return to the Celtics lineup Wednesday against the Heat as he continues to recover from a badly bruised tailbone. Including Monday night, Thomas will have missed eight games after landing awkwardly following a midair collision with Miami’s Dwyane Wade March 9.
The Celtics are 5-3 in Thomas’s absence.
Stevens said doctors said they had not seen a tailbone bruise this severe and it took several days for Thomas to resume basketball activities. But he did work out before Sunday’s game and appears ready to come back to an offense that needs a boost.
“Wednesday is as close to probable as it gets,” Stevens said. “We feel good about him playing. He’s starting to do a lot more movement, a lot more working out. He hasn’t played with our guys yet [in practice]. That’s the next step [Wednesday in shootaround].”
After Evan Turner’s second triple-double in the month (19 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds), he was sporting removable gold teeth that covered his lower mouth. It was the first time this season that Turner has worn such a look, and he felt inclined to explain the sudden desire to be flashy.
“Every now and then I switch things up,” he said. “I just gotta have fun. I just woke up feeling like it.
“This originally started off, every family [vacation] me and my brothers do something off the wall to make my grandma go crazy, whether a mohawk or a [removable] tattoo or something stupid, so this past vaca we decided to get grills. We got the reaction we wanted from her, so every now and then I’ll wear it.
“She was like, ‘Oh Lord, they’re going to kill me.’ It started off as a joke.”
Pressey on Pressey
While Phil Pressey is trying to help the Celtics make a playoff push, his father, former NBA swingman and Lakers assistant coach Paul Pressey, will lead Los Angeles for a few days while head coach Byron Scott attends the funeral of his mother. Paul Pressey is a veteran NBA assistant who has filled in before when coaches have been ejected but he will lead the Lakers for a pair of games at Oklahoma City on Tuesday and Minnesota on Wednesday.
“He’s done it before, so whenever he’s in that position, he’s an extension of Byron Scott,” Phil said. “It’s no problem at all for him. It’s not even a big deal, it’s just trying to go out and win a game and whatever he can do to help. That’s what he plans to do.”
Phil said his father never really has expressed the long-term desire to be a head coach.
“I never really talked to him about that,” Phil said. “He’s just happy to be able to have a job, to be able to do something that he loves to do, coach.
“Being involved with the game of basketball for so long, I know he feels blessed. I know my dad, he doesn’t look at it that way, just happy to be able to have a job.”
What kind of coach will dad be?
“He’s the kind of guy who loves players who play the game the right way,” Phil said.
“Guys who play defense, who play tough and gritty. He doesn’t really care who’s out there, as long as he’s helping the team win.”
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com.