CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Marcus Smart feels like a man on an island, picked on by the NBA establishment, feeling unprotected when he gets elbowed or pushed around, so he decided to fight back, literally, against the Philadelphia 76ers and said Friday that he will continue to defend himself if the officials don’t.
Smart spoke for the first time since his costly ejection Wednesday when he pushed Joel Embiid to the floor from behind and drew a flagrant 2 foul. It was Smart’s second ejection of the season and he drew a $50,000 fine for his actions. The Celtics blew an 11-point second-half lead and lost the game partly because Smart wasn’t on the floor.
Speaking after Celtics’ practice at the Hornets’ practice facility, Smart was unapologetic, feeling officials don’t make the necessary calls or allow him to play physical defense. He also said officials allowed Embiid to throw elbows and make an illegal screen with no call.
“You know the old saying, the guy who retaliates is the one that always gets caught,” Smart said. “I got caught but like I said, I’d do it over again. I’m going to protect myself at all times, especially if I don’t feel like I’m being protected out there like everybody else is. If you don’t want to clean it up, I’ll clean it up myself.
“It’s hard as a defender in this league to play defense. You can’t touch anybody and when you do, it’s a call on you. The offensive player can create so much contact on the defender and the defender can’t even protect himself.”
In the play prior to the hard screen that caused Smart to charge Embiid, Smart tried going for a steal on Embiid near the sideline. Embiid grabbed the ball away from Smart but also used his elbow to shield Smart off. On the subsequent screen, Embiid stuck out his elbow to knock Smart to the floor. That’s what irked him.
“I got called for a foul [on the steal], that’s OK, I’m not worried about that, the elbow to the chest,” Smart said. “But then the illegal screen from Joel the very next play. I thought it was really obvious it was an illegal screen that should have been called. I thought it should have been cleaned up.
“With the illegal elbow, you seen Joel walk away like he didn’t even do anything. After that, I waited for the call and when it didn’t happen, I just went and pushed him. It’s hard because you send a message to a guy that you can’t protect yourself. You’re supposed to take that and allow that.
“I’m sorry I just wasn’t raised that way. I was raised to protect myself at all times.”
The Celtics weren’t happy with Smart’s actions or his ejection. His teammates admitted he lost his cool and coach Brad Stevens said he was going to have a one-on-one chat with Smart prior to the Saturday game against the Charlotte Hornets.
Still, Smart was unabashed in his belief that he has been mistreated by officials.
“If you’re going to let other guys be physical, you’ve got to let everybody be physical,” he said. “You just can’t let one guy or one team be physical. That’s how guys get hurt and that’s how these types of things start. It’s over with. It’s done with. I’m not going to say anything else. I already got the fine. I’m not trying to have any more of my money taken from me.
“I’m probably judged on a different scale than anybody else. I seen a couple of nights before Russell Westbrook do the exact same thing and get hit with a flagrant 1 and I got ejected. It’s definitely different type of individuals held to a different type of platforms and higher pedestals than others and that’s understandable. Unfortunately, I’m on that lower totem pole.”
When asked if he felt as if he hurt the team, Smart said: “I definitely do. I’m sure other people that’s not Celtics fans will tell you I didn’t because I’m a big part of this team.
“I think I definitely hurt my team and my teammates expressed to me they were disappointed in me. I’ve got to be smart next time.”
. . .
Stevens said the MRI on Aron Baynes’s right ankle came back better than expected and he could return possibly Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs or if not, Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Baynes suffered a grade 2 sprain Wednesday against the 76ers and it was initially feared he could miss the rest of the regular season.
Baynes was supposed to be examined by doctors on Friday to determine when he could resume basketball activities.
Meanwhile, Gordon Hayward was not with the team in Charlotte as he remains in NBA concussion protocol. Hayward suffered the concussion running into a John Collins screen on March 16 and has missed the past two games.
Stevens said Hayward is improved but has yet to be cleared by NBA-affiliated doctors. G-League Maine and two-way contract players R.J. Hunter and P.J Dozier were with the club for depth. Maine’s season ends on Saturday and it is not in playoff contention.