The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers played last night in what was last season's Eastern Conference finals. Even though it was only a preseason game animosity between some of the players in those teams emerged early into the game.
With 3 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first quarter, a scuffle broke out between the teams that resulted in the ejection of Celtics guard Marcus Smart.
The initial contact was made when J.R. Smith got tangled up with Celtics forward Aron Baynes while fighting for position in the paint. The two locked elbows and tossed each other around, which resulted in Smart getting involved in the whole thing.
Smith earned a technical for his role in the whole scuffle, while Smart got tossed, presumably for coming out of nowhere to shove Smith in the back of the head.
Once again, you get to pushing and shoving and I just wasn't having it," Smart said. "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."This is crazy, especially with me getting ejected for shoving. The same thing happened -- he shoved Baynes first. It is what it is. I did it. I owned up to it. I accept the consequences. I'm not afraid of that. Whatever comes with it, comes with it."
After the game, Smart, following what’s becoming an NBA tradition, challenged Smith to “meet me in the back.”
“All that on the court, we can handle that off the court,” Smart said. “I ain’t with that. That’s on my mama. May she rest in peace. Ain’t no punk right here.
“J.R. know where I’m at. Everybody knows where I’m at.”
Like a lot of athletes these days they exchanged words through the media.
"For a guy who wants to be so tough in this situation, he leads the league in flops. Easily," Smith said following the Cavaliers' 113-102 win. "You can't flop as much as you do and then be tough. How does that even work? And then you start slinging your teammates. Like, you didn't come to play basketball today. You knew he didn't want to play. Your coach told you gotta play and you was frustrated. 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 (Supreme) tattoo, so why would I lose it over him?"
There was a lot of jawing and trash talking in a game that at certain times looked like a playoff game. At the end nobody wanted to deal with the financial penalties that would come with trading actual punches on the basketball court.