Ainge on Smart: 'I like his fire'

CHICAGO -- Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Friday that the fan-shoving incident that left Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart suspended for three games might not necessarily be a negative as teams consider the guard prospect.

"I sorta like Marcus Smart. I like his fire," Ainge said while appearing on ESPN's combine broadcast during the second day of on-court activities from Quest Multisport in Chicago. "I don’t know all the details of that, haven't researched that yet, but we will look into that. But [it won't affect his draft stock] much. I think he’s a great kid, a great player and I think he’ll have a bright future."

Smart was scheduled to meet with Boston for a private interview on Friday. While he's rated at No. 8 on Chad Ford's Big Board as the draft nears, some have wondered if Smart hurt his draft status by returning for his sophomore season and struggling at times while transitioning to the role of point guard.

For his part, Smart said he's fine with how everything played out and hasn't shied away from the topics when talking with prospective employers.

"Everything that happened this season, I wouldn’t change it a bit," said Smart. "It helped me and got me ready for the NBA and things to come in the NBA."

Smart could be one of the players of interest to Boston should it not vault to a top 3 position during the draft lottery on Tuesday. And Ainge offered praise for Smart when asked about his draft stock.

"I want passion," said Ainge, who then quipped, "I got myself in trouble a few times on the court. I don’t worry too much. I’d much rather try to calm a player down than try to light a fire under somebody. I’m a big fan of passionate players."

How can player harness that passion?

"I think just maturity helps," said Ainge. "But, again, there’s not a lot of players that are very emotional and very passionate. It’s hard to find those guys that care and do anything it takes to win. I just prefer those. That’s part of being on a team and having your teammates help each other through it, and coaches that know the players and their personalities, and know weaknesses and challenges. That’s just what you have to deal with on a team."