Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart will be suspended for Friday’s preseason game against the Miami Heat, coach Ime Udoka told reporters Thursday. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Smart’s suspension is due to him missing the team flight to Orlando. The Celtics played there on Wednesday. Teams frequently play road games against both Florida teams on the same road trip in order to limit travel.
Smart did not play against the Magic on Wednesday, but many Celtics veterans sat out with him. Smart, Jayson Tatum, Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson were listed with the designation “DNP-Rest.” Jaylen Brown and Al Horford were also out due to COVID-19. The Celtics lost to the Magic, 103-102, but Orlando used far more of its regular rotation and was at home. Of course, as this was a preseason game, the Celtics were not overly concerned with the outcome itself.
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But Boston has a new coach in Udoka, and new coaches have to assert their authority quickly to earn the respect of their teams. That is especially true in a locker room like Boston’s, which has seen significant playoff success and is loaded with respected veterans. In that sense, this situation worked out rather well for Udoka. He will not be without Smart for any meaningful regular-season games, but by suspending him for a preseason game, he is showing his locker room that the rules apply to everyone, even respected veterans like Smart.
Udoka said earlier this offseason that, unlike during the Brad Stevens’ coaching era, the Celtics will have two team captains. Smart, the longest-tenured player on the team, would surely be a candidate for one of those positions. A punishment like this might not help his candidacy, but if it helps teach the entire locker room a lesson, it could ultimately prove to be a positive development for the team.