CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With 8 minutes, 48 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the Celtics' 104-98 win against the Hornets on Saturday night, Celtics coach Brad Stevens received a technical foul for arguing an offensive foul called against Jonas Jerebko.
It was a rare call against Stevens, whose only technical foul last season came during the playoff series loss to the Hawks.
"Even Al [Horford] said something on the bench," Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas said. "He was surprised that Brad got it. But he was like, 'You need that every now and then.' Brad shows that every now and then, every blue moon. We probably won't see it for another 50 games."
Thomas was asked if Stevens seems more on edge this season than he has in previous years.
"A little more," Thomas said. "I just think with all the expectations, he expects a lot out of us. So when we're not doing our job, he's on us a lot more than he has in the past."
Long day on the road
For many professional teams, the road offers a chance to come together over things they have in common besides the sport that they play. But for the Celtics, Friday afternoon's flight might have been a bit much.
After losing to the Bulls in Chicago on Thursday night, the Celtics were scheduled to depart from Midway Airport at about 12:30 p.m. Friday. After boarding the Delta charter and pulling away from the gate, however, the team was informed that there was a mechanical issue with the plane's battery.
There was no other aircraft immediately available, and the airline was working to fix the battery problem, so the team stayed on the plane and waited and waited. In all, they were grounded for nearly six hours.
"Yeah, we had a punishment," Stevens quipped. "We had 20 minutes per offensive rebound allowed I guess."
Stevens was referring to the 105-99 loss to the Bulls in which his team surrendered 18 offensive rebounds.
In the end, a second plane arrived to fly the team to Charlotte for the game against the Hornets. This was a regular commercial plane rather than the typical luxury charter experience, but at that point nobody seemed to mind.
Celtics vice president of media relations Jeff Twiss is entering his 36th season with the team, and he said it was one of the longest delays on a tarmac that he could remember. But it was not the most stressful.
When Doc Rivers coached the Celtics, snowy weather severely delayed a flight from Boston to Denver. The Celtics arrived about two hours before tipoff against the Nuggets.
"And we played the game and won the game," Twiss said, "which is an especially difficult thing going into a high-altitude city."
During Friday's delay, the Celtics played music, read, and slept. They arrived in Charlotte around 8 p.m., almost 24 hours before they would tip off against the Hornets.
"We were sitting there and guys enjoyed it and it's part of it," Stevens said. "It's part of travel."
Smart making progress
Stevens said that Marcus Smart's sprained ankle is improving, but that the guard does not yet have a definitive return date. Smart sprained his ankle in the Celtics' preseason game against the Knicks on Oct. 19.
"I anticipate he'll at least go through some of Monday's practice, but I don't know if he'll be live," Stevens said. "I don't know if he'll be ready to go by Wednesday [against the Bulls] or not."
Smart was not on this road trip with the team. The Celtics will not practice on Sunday.
Stevens happy for Hunter
Guard R.J. Hunter, who was waived by the Celtics last Monday, was officially signed by the Bulls on Thursday. Stevens said he was glad to see Hunter, the 28th pick of the 2015 draft, find a new home so quickly.
"I think he's a really good player," Stevens said. "His ability to shoot the ball and his ability to pass the ball are two great strengths
The Celtics' game on Saturday night was their third consecutive home opener. They started the regular season at TD Garden against the Nets, then started the Bulls' season in Chicago before starting the Hornets' home season in Charlotte. "I think it's great," Stevens said. "It's one of the things, you know, being able to play in front of these crowds and the excitement level of a season opener and everything else is great. It's why these guys play the game. They enjoy playing in these atmospheres. Certainly everybody wants to be home, but at the end of the day that's kind of what you've always enjoyed doing." . . . Hornets center Roy Hibbert missed Saturday's game with a sore right knee.