CLEVELAND — An extremely emotional Marcus Smart admitted he told J.R. Smith to meet him in the back after the on-court dustup that led to Smart’s ejection during the Boston Celtics’ loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in preseason play on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Still fuming about Smith’s actions that precipitated the first-half dust-up, Smart did not mince words when addressing Smith’s role in his ejection after the game.
“I told [Smith] to come back to the back,” said Smart, who fidgeted throughout his emotional two-minute interview with reporters and at one point addressed the camera directly.
“All that on the court, we can handle that off the court. I ain’t with that. And that’s on my mama, may she rest in peace. Ain’t no punk right here. On my mama, may she rest in peace. That s— dead, so. Whatever happens, happens. J.R. knows where I’m at. Everyone knows where I’m at. It is what it is.”
Smith responded to video of Smart’s interview by writing on Twitter, “Meet me on street damn the back!!” Later Smith added, “Better keep this s— [about] basketball.”
Smart, who has admitted he’s still coping with the recent loss of his mother, was angered when Smith delivered a two-handed shove to Baynes after the two players got tangled jockeying for position under the basket during a Boston made field goal.
Smart rushed in from behind and gave Smith a two-handed shove to his back. Smart was angered, in part, by Smith’s past incidents involving Boston players.
“Everybody saw it, man. Once again, you get to pushing and shoving and I just wasn’t having it,” said Smart. “We went through this last year and I’m not trying to do it again. It is what it is. I did what I had to do [for] my teammates. Just like, if it was me, my teammates would do the same thing, so.”
Smart said he’d accept any further punishment the league might bestow — likely a fine — but teammates Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum were able to tackle him to the ground before any further escalation on the court.
Smith downplayed his role in the incident, saying he simply wasn’t backing down from having to battle for position with the larger Baynes.
“Everybody knows how I play, especially when I got bigs on me, try to post me up, I’m going to try to front the post,” said Smith. “So I did what I normally do, front the post. He did what bigs normally do, try and lock my arm, try and draw a whistle. He swung me extra, a little too much, twice, and they still called a double foul, which was awkward.
“I was frustrated with the situation, [Baynes] was clearly frustrated, so I pushed him. Y’all seen the rest.”
Turning his attention to Smart, Smith challenged his toughness.
“For a guy who wants to be so tough in this situation, he leads the league in flops. Easily. You can’t flop as much as you do and then be tough. How does that even work?” asked Smith. “And then you start slinging your teammates. Like, you didn’t come to play basketball today. You know what, he didn’t want to play. Your coach told you you gotta play and you was frustrated, and then you try to take it out on somebody else.
“At the end of the day, I’m not going to sit here and lose money over trying to fight Marcus Smart. I’m not going to lose money over my tattoo, so why would I lose it over him?”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens admitted he thought Smith’s shove on Baynes was a “cheap shot,” while Al Horford suggested Smith’s actions were “unnecessary.”
Rozier said he was happy to simply prevent Smart from making matters worse by helping corral him with Tatum.
“Just try to not let the situation escalate,” said Rozier. “Just trying to do whatever I can to hold him back, and had to tackle him. But, you know, sometimes emotions get high and things like that. I get it. Sometimes you’ve just got to calm down though. It’s preseason. No dirty stuff should go on, but at the same time, we just got to let things go sometimes.
“He is [tough to tackle]. I never usually get in people’s way, because I understand sometimes when people are ticked off you’ve just got to let them calm down. You’ve just got to give them a minute. I’m the same way. But you’ve got to do what we can to protect our guys.”