Marcus Smart did not shy away from the once-scary reports out of Orlando of a Celtics locker room in turmoil. He centered in the accounts that his teammates refuted, that he and Jaylen Brown needed to be separated before he stormed out of the locker room yelling all the way. Smart called the event electrifying on Monday.
Smart discussed the locker room incident for the first time after Monday’s practice. With the Celtics bouncing back in Game 2, he described the event as a moment of growth for a family, falling in line with Brown, Jayson Tatum and the rest of the group who considered it proof they care.
“We grew up even more through that adversity,” he said. “I’ve always been said that before you see the rainbow it has to storm. For us, that was a storm we had to go through, Families fight. For us to be able to respond, show that growth, it showed a lot. Not only being able to express myself, but also being able to listen to my teammates. Listen to what they have to say. Listen to what my coaching staff has to say and just really taking it to heart.”
Reports initially showed that teammates questioned Smart’s decisions in Game 2 and he took issue with placing singular blame. He said he was glad the incident didn’t affect his or any other player’s approach, as the Celtics spread the ball around and Smart ultimately closed the Game 3 victory as Miami rallied late by shooting 10-for-10 at the line — the most free throws made of his career.
Tatum and others previously said it would’ve been worse if the Celtics didn’t blow up after surrendering a 17-point lead in Game 2 to fall down 0-2 in the series. The emotion and fire showed they cared.
“I would’ve been more worried if ... everyone was calm, cool and collected,” Smart said. “That would’ve been a problem. I hate losing more than I love winning and I think I play with a lot of guys who feel the same way.”
Even with many of the Celtics’ families in the bubble, Smart added that they’ve largely stayed to the side, maintaining the singular reliance the team holds in each other at this moment. Brad Stevens described an eery feeling at Monday’s practice, with only four teams remaining in what he once described as a bustling practice facility. He only noticed it today as the Celtics entered day two of a three-day layoff between games.
Continuing the conversation about the Game 3 win, the Celtics keyed pressuring the ball — Goran Dragic — with Smart. Miami, at its presser earlier in the day, emphasized attacking Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter when Boston tries to hide them on Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala.
Gordon Hayward’s return remained a popular topic, with a fitting layoff after conditioning proved a problem for him in the later stages of the win. Stevens said Hayward asked to come out several times on Saturday, but when he joined the rest of the starters to end the first half, it gave Boston its best five.
Grant Williams also talked on Monday, discussing his rock, paper, scissors routine highlighted on ESPN’s mic’d-up segment. He said he’s roughly 6-2 calling out wins or losses before throwing out his choice — Brown didn’t expect scissors.
The mood in the room reflected what Stevens’ hands-off approach hoped for amid the potential crisis in the room. He believed that the personalities, desire to win and focus on the court would prevail over any speech he could deliver. After rallying for a win, the collective love much of the team displayed publicly all season returned — with Williams a fitting, talkative star for the mic during Boston’s attempt to bounce back.
“(Marcus) is our heart and soul,” Williams said. “He’s the guy who keeps us going, keeps us inspired, keeps us being competitive.”