Celtics Marcus Smart fined on birthday - and proves his point

Any knowledgeable basketball fan knows that superstars get preferential treatment by the referees. Marcus Smart's $15,000 fine arrived on his birthday, and it helped prove what prompted the fine in the first place.

Here is the point. Smart's criticism of the officiating after Saturday's close loss to the Houston Rockets was critical of the officials, but far from an indictment. You can judge by his statement below (per Yahoo.com's Ben Rohrbach):

“When you’re playing a guy like that who gets those types of calls, it’s pretty much like you’re playing in foul trouble. You’ve got to play really certain. You have to be really solid. You can’t really play the defense that you want, because you know nine times out of 10 he’s going to get those calls. It doesn’t matter whether your hands are up or not. He still gets them. We saw that here tonight a few times, and we’ve seen that every other game. He has a way of using his hands, grabbing us, pulling us into him and drawing those fouls. He’s been doing it for a long time. He gets the benefit of the doubt.”

“It happens all around the league. You get certain players who get calls that other guys just wouldn’t get. We all know the rule. We all understand it. Superstars are going to be superstars. We get it. It is what it is. We’ve just got to play.”

Now, for comparison, let's take a look at James Harden criticizing the officials after Houston's loss to Boston on December 28. Harden never received a fine for his comments (per Yahoo.com's Ben Rohrbach):

All Smart has to do to prove his point is refer to the NBA’s lack of punishment against Harden when the MVP favorite levied similar criticism on Dec. 28.

That’s when, if you’ll recall, Smart baited Harden into a pair of offensive fouls in the final 7.3 seconds, turning a 98-97 deficit into a 99-98 win. Afterwards, the six-time All-Star shared the following:

“First of all, I want to know: How do you only have two officials in a national TV game? That’s the first question. But a lot of grabbing, a lot of holding. I mean, how else am I supposed to get open? The guy has two arms wrapped around my whole body.”

My argument here is that The Beard did his rant after the December 28 game, and not only did he not get fined, it may have attracted the attention of the referees. The tweet below shows the offensive fouls by Harden on December 28, 2017.

Marcus Smart is an elite, tough defender and in his fourth year, is considered a veteran. Harden is a true superstar and right now, probably a favorite for this year's MVP. After the December 28 game, I honestly felt that Marcus had the respect of the referees, particularly in his tight, but clean, coverage of James Harden. After the no-fine on The Beard and the $15,000 against Marcus, I now have my doubts. I definitely see no equal treatment here. That could have significant repercussions if the two teams meet in the NBA Finals.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHV

Photo via Michael Dwyer/Associated Press