WALTHAM — Al Horford returned to the Celtics on Tuesday, a few days after the birth of his daughter, Alia, in Atlanta caused him to miss Boston’s win over Miami on Monday.
Professional athletes missing games because of the birth of children is a common occurrence, but there have been social media murmurs that perhaps Horford should have returned to the team for the game since his daughter already had been born. The Celtics had no such concerns about that given it was Game 17 of an 82-game schedule.
Horford explained following the team’s practice that his wife Amelia has been going through the transition from Atlanta, where Horford spent nine seasons, to Boston and he felt it mandatory to spend extra time with her.
“Everybody’s healthy, that’s the most important thing and [Alia’s] been great,” Horford said. “[Tuesday] she got released [from the hospital] so she’s home and resting. Family’s very important and, for me, I’m in more of a unique situation because this is our first year here, going through all the moving in the middle of the pregnancy and just a lot going on. I just felt like it was important for me to really be there for her, supporting her. We have a son [Ean] as well, so for her it’s been a lot thrown at her the past few months.
“So I know it meant a lot for her for me to be there. I’m just very happy the Celtics not only consider us as players but as people and people that have families.”
Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million maximum contract, has missed 10 of the team’s 17 games (nine of them because of a concussion). There was discussion on the Celtics’ flagship network CSN New England that Horford should have flown from Atlanta to Miami for Monday’s game.
“I don’t really read into anything; I don’t read all the Twitter stuff and I just focus on the court, on my job here and off the court on my family,” Horford said. “Everybody has their opinion. I respect anything that anybody has to say. I care a lot about the group and our guys.
“For my family’s sake, it was important for me to be there with our transition and everything. So that’s that and I can put that behind me and get focused again on [Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons].
“It was hard for me but I felt like the right thing was for me to be next to my wife.”
It was an interesting game for Marcus Smart against Miami. He picked up a technical and a flagrant foul and then, for the first time in his career, he was repeatedly fouled intentionally in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra employed Hack-a-Smart.
Spoelstra also said some interesting things, according to Celtics forward Jae Crowder, who has been consulting Smart about tempering his emotions.
“It’s funny because I was telling him during the game, Spoelstra was saying he’s a ‘hothead,’ ” Crowder said. “Obviously that was part of the game plan to try to get under his skin a little bit.
“A lot of teams know he wears his emotions [on] his sleeve, so they’re going to try to do stuff like that. You just have to be more cautious and know it’s just a game and try to play your game.”
In one Hack-a-Smart sequence, Miami’s Goran Dragic grabbed Smart and was slow to let him go after the foul. Both players pushed each other and Smart was assessed a technical. Smart is third in the NBA with four technical fouls. (Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins leads the league with six).
“He, as an individual, as a person, has to control it,” Crowder said. “We keep being on him about it, but it’s about him being able to control it. There’s a lot of players and coaches in this league that know he’s an emotional type guy. They’re going to try to do everything they can to get in his head, under his skin. But he has to want to put his pride aside and put his emotions aside for the team and take care of business.
“He’s playing a bigger role now we need him to be more locked in on that standpoint.”
Said coach Brad Stevens on Smart: “Ultimately, the guy’s a competitor and a winner. He makes winning plays on both ends of the court. There aren’t a lot of guys his age that have impacted the game the way he has. You can feel it when he’s on the court. You ask anybody in here and they all know Marcus’s value.”
Stevens said Smart’s intangibles are invaluable.
“Toughness is such a critical component of a team and everybody brings their own levels of skill to the table but you have the ability to win that possession and he’s able to do that on a lot of possessions,” Stevens said. “It’s a competitive game.”