Celtics' Danny Ainge defends Marcus Smart after latest incident

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Danny Ainge still in Marcus Smart's corner despite latest incident originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Is the Marcus Smart Experience an overall benefit to the Boston Celtics?

The Celtics' longest-tenured player is the team's emotional leader and impacts winning with his hustle, defense and playmaking ability. But as we saw last week, his competitive streak sometimes gets him into trouble.

Smart was suspended for last Wednesday's game against the Charlotte Hornets after directing "threatening" language toward an official against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday. Then on Sunday, Smart was ejected in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers after hitting Jusuf Nurkic in the groin.

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So, are two costly incidents in the span of less than a week a cause for concern? Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge doesn't believe so -- in part because he didn't agree with Smart's ejection Sunday.

"Listen, personally, I don’t think there was any evidence of Marcus doing it on purpose," Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich." 

"It took (the officials) six minutes, like a jury debate, (to decide) whether he did or he didn't. I don't know how that whole process went down. I don’t think it was worthy of being ejected from a game. That's just my opinion.

" ... Marcus blows up screens as good as anybody. I've watched Marcus fight over screens all the time, and I don't see any difference between that one and others that he's tried to get over the top."

Regardless of whether the officials got Smart's ejection right, it sounds like Ainge and the Celtics are willing to accept the whole package of the 27-year-old.

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"Marcus has gotten himself in these things before, and we love Marcus," Ainge said. "We love how he competes and plays, and we'll just deal with it and move forward."

Smart has been suspended five times in this season alone, and he'll need to stay out of trouble if the C's want to make serious noise in the postseason. If he can limit the outbursts, there's plenty to like about Smart's game: He's averaging a career-high 5.8 assists this season and boasts a robust 110.8 defensive rating.

While there might be conversations behind the scenes about cutting out the detrimental conduct, it appears Celtics leadership is willing to support Smart at every turn.