Was Smart Smart?

  • Some of us have been doing a lot of Marcus Smart bashing the past few weeks, and deservedly so, in my opinion, but there’s one thing about him that I will always respect.

    He came back.

    Say what you will, right or wrong, good or bad. He came back. I realize that the antics he’s pulled this season are not making a strong case for my argument as he’s probably hurt his own draft status. BUT - that was all of his own doing. His poor decisions. But he came back.

    Do you know a lot of 18 year olds that would pass up being a top 5 NBA pick and about a bazillion dollars to stay in Stillwater, OK? Me neither.

    No one on this site, including me, really knows what makes him tick but I really admire the fact that he passed up instant fame and fortune to come back to school, play with his best friend since 3rd grade (Forte) and wanted to win at least a conference championship for his school (hehe).

    I really wish Andrew would consider the same. Statistically, he’s one of the best freshmen to ever play at Kansas, but am I the only one who doesn’t think he’s NBA ready? Let me back up, I KNOW he’s gone - I’m not sending out a plea for him to stay or anything, I just wish he would. I know one big argument for going is " what about injury ?". What about it? My wife broke her ankle fishing last fall. I jacked up my back one time bending over to tie my shoe laces. Injury or illness is something that can happen any time, whether you’re in Lawrence, Ks or Orlando, Fl.

    Anyway, goodbye Andrew.

    And I still think Smart is a nimrod. But I appreciate the fact that he came back.

  • Marcus Smart is the best bad outside shot PG since Jason Kidd, who was the best bad outside shot PG since Magic Johnson. And we know how good those two became as pros. Magic remade himself into a great set shooting trifectate in the L. Kidd only got a little better on the trigger. But great athletes and fierce competitors translate level to level. Smart is a great one. Nobody says Ty Cobb wasn’t great, because he too was a jerk (and a racist). Nobody said Muhammad Ali (one of my heroes) wasn’t great even though he was a jerk early that joined one of the reputedly most dubious and racial separatist quasi religious organizations ever. Pete Rose was reputedly a gambling addicted jerk, but one of the greatest baseball players I ever saw. Allen Iverson appears to be a jerk that reputedly may have participated in a violent crime. But he was pound for pound the best PG of his time. Great athletic competitors, like fiercely talented and competitive persons in all walks of life often are socially challenged jerks. We shouldn’t like their jerkishness, or enable it, but we should not deny them their greatness either. Smart has the most incredible trapping range on defense I have seen in a PG. He came back for whatever reason. He beat us the way Ty Cobb, or AI, or Pete Rose would have beaten us. We need to get off his back and kick his ass on the floor being who we are. Get Smart! Not Maxwell but Marcus! Beat him down! Kick him while he is down. But don’t pretend he isn’t a great player, because he is. He did what he had to do to get the win and intimidate KU FOR THE NEXT GAME. Now we have to prove we are tougher, better, meaner, and more intimidating. There is nothing more fiercesome than good men righting a wrong. Just ask Japan after WWII. We burned most of their cities to the ground and nuked them twice AFTER we cornered them. Smart will find out what good men are capable of when the gloves come off the next time we meet. But he’s still a great one. And great one’s can get separated from their snot like all the rest.

    Remember Stillwater!

  • @jaybate 1.0 We had a pretty good “bad outside shot PG” of our own … Jacque Vaughn. Just wish he would have taken that outside shot vs. Arizona in the last moments.

  • @nuleafjhawk Why do I have a feeling Marcus Smart may disappear into mediocrity or neutralized in the NBA? I’m done wasting my time on him. He’s not worth the energy it takes to type. It’s sad because if he would kept his nose clean and focused on bball and not his ego, he had some respect. It’s all gone. Marcus Smart is a zero in my character book. Next…

  • @nuleafjhawk

    Very good post, and you stuck your neck out to do it (with the “hate Smart” crowd).

    So many things I like about Marcus. He just needs to pull back 1/10 of his competitiveness. That’s the tenth that goes over the line of scruples.

    I have a feeling he will be the next Charles Barkley in the league… minus a few inches and pounds. Marcus needs an agent more than any player in the last zillion years. The guy needs someone he respects to keep him straight and out of trouble. Actually… in our f&%# up culture we reward some level of trouble… so it is hard to say what makes him worth more money… and that is what our culture is all about (unfortunately).

    Even with his troubles, I think Marcus is going to do well at the next level, unless he screws up from the money. One can only imagine what he will be like when he has dollars with 6 digits behind them. I can almost see him starting a petting zoo for kids, or something bizarro like that. The guy has a truly unique mind.

  • I always like it when players stay. I too was glad Marcus Smart stayed because now I have reasons to dislike him. I didn’t get too worked up about the flip last year, who gives a flip if an 18/19 year old shows some exuberance over a big win?

    This year I have seen him diminish in the eyes of many and that is a shame. And if it was diminishing because his skills mysteriously disappeared that would be one thing, but he has diminished because of things that have nothing to do with the game. His antics, going into the crowd, overtrying to be the best player on the floor and looking horrible in the process (see the first 30 minutes of our game last week), even his flopping, which I don’t recall happening last year.

    I said last week his flopping doesn’t bug me too much if it works and it does. It’s the refs fault for buying it every flipping flopping act of it.

    I really hope that the NBA puts an end to this foolishness and makes a kid stay in college if he doesn’t want to commit to the pros immediately. It wouldn’t hurt the college game too much. It would hurt Cal, and we’re fine with that, but most of KU’s success under Self has been accomplished with upper classmen. If anything it gives KU better chances to win because we have Self.

  • @nuleafjhawk I was impressed that he chose to stay too, BUT not anymore! Lost all respect for him and his coach! I’m done too! Man do I wish Wiggins was coming back too. If he thought this was hard, what about next year? He does have a strong support system, so that will help. I would like to think his dad could see that he could use more time developing here. Will miss his great attitude and smile!!

  • @wissoxfan83

    Smart did not need to flop last year because he was bulldozing opponents with impunity and getting all the calls. He supposedly came back to college to improve his 3 point shot and it did not get better, in fact it got worse. On top of that the new contact rules dictated that he could no longer run roughshod over opponents and so he deiced to give himself an edge by flopping with unsavory gusto.

    As a result of his frustration, he is now one of the more if not the most hated player in college basketball, at least he is in our conference.

    How this will translate to the NBA is not known at this time. Like all entertainment, basketball (much like wrestling) needs good guys and “heels,” although the NBA with its emphasis in “family entertainment” has, in the last few years, tried very hard to weed out all the “bad boys” and project a cleaner image. The day of the Rodmans and Laimbeers are largely gone, and even notorious bad boy Ron Artest changed his name and is pretty much a boy scout compare to the old days. although he occasionally throws a mean elbow. The closest we have to a bad boy is DeMarcus Cousin. This trend does not favor the image that Smart has acquired.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    Yes, JV was a heckuva guard for KU and good enough to hang around the L for a long time, while getting in the door coaching. Intelligent. With insight. Always a combination if mixed with positive thinking, persistence and problem solving that make for a successful person.

    Bad outside shot guards in the game have always fascinated me, because they make unmistakable the other parts of basketball that are pathways to be “impactful” in Self-ese. He could guard. He could disrupt. He had long legs for his size. He had super long arms for his size. He could dribble like nobody’s business. He could get to the rim with enough strength to finish and take the beating. He could lead. He could disrupt. He was shifty, wily, and opportunistic in good ways. And he could see the floor.

    The only knock I could ever lay on him was like a lot of good guards he had a tendency to over control the ball. It could stick on him. But in his defense, the number of team TOs probably were always lower with the ball in his hands than in anyone else’s.

    One of the problems with all of us fans judging players to be ball hogs at times is that we are not in the practices to see whether or not the other back court players can protect and move the ball to the right places as well as a player like Vaughn could. As a result, sometimes when I used to say Vaughn controlled the ball too much, I was perhaps not taking into sufficient account the ball handling abilities (or lack there of) of his teammates. A team with weak ball handlers at both wings puts a terrible burden on a point guard. And it tends to create two somewhat misleading impressions. First, it can make a great ball handling PG like Vaughn seem a bit too much of a ball hog, when he keeps it in his hands to hold down TOs. Second, it can make a sound, but not great athlete, like Naa, look less good than he really is.

    Despite our recent harsh judgements of Naa, he is a decent, first-starting-season, D1-point guard on the offensive end of the floor that gets heavily schemed against and sometimes overwhelmed, because opponents don’t have to worry about Selden, or Wiggins, beating them off the bounce much, because while Selden and Wiggins are driving threats (awesome driving threats in Wiggins’ case), they turn the ball over so much on the bounce that Self can’t afford to let them drive the ball very much except in crucial create a shot situations.

    Hmmm. I’m not sure that came out clearly. What I mean is Selden and Wiggins are beasts to stop in a one possession game, when you put the ball in either of their hands and say go get a basket, because of their massive athleticism’s and Wiggins’ unprecedented first AND second AND third steps.

    But if you put the ball in their hands trip after trip for a whole game you are looking at 6-8 TOs per game from either of them. Wiggins dribbling is especially limited with a defender on him hard. Its not that Wiggins can’t get by anyone of god’s children on the sacred wood. Its that if he is being guarded hard, his is apt to lose control of the ball, or travel, as he is blowing by the defender. He just needs another year of work to remedy that, but still its a critical weakness in the scheme of playing winning basketball as a team this season. This year, Wigs’ and Selden’s athleticism’s have to be used sparingly to get the net benefit of them, otherwise it turns into the turnover olympics and their play turns in to a net cost.

    What this does is put an enormous burden on Tharpe to control the ball and only get it to the guys in situations where they won’t cough it up. And, at the same time, Tharpe must also accomplish the conflicting prime directive of Self’s hi-lo (aka Dean’s and Larry’s Carolina Passing Offense as handed down by Henry Iba’s hi-lo created for the 1964, or 1968 Olympic Team–I forget which just now) to keep the ball from sticking!

    Opposing coaches understand the problem facing Self and Tharpe, and so they scheme to exploit Tharpe’s predicament. He’s a sound but not hugely athletic PG with playing with wings he can only go to judiciously, if TOs are to be kept from going stratospheric.

    Opposing coaches and teams know that Wiggins and Selden are not every possession threats to drive to iron in the KU offense, because they turn the ball over too much doing it. Opposing coaches know that the KU game is to get it to the bigs for the high percentage shot and to hold down TOs by Wigs and Selden until the tipping points of games, when Self unleashes them to do their things. Opposing coaches know they only have to worry about Wigs and Selden going wild on them down the stretches of both halves, or when Self is trying to stop a momentum swing. So: they do the logical thing. They scheme to put Tharpe in a pressure cooker every game. They do it different ways, but always the point is to put Tharpe under the gun, because the wings won’t do much damage till the stretches. They dare KU to go to Selden and Wigs every possession, knowing Self won’t allow it more than a few trips to try to keep the other team at least a little honest. Tharpe finds himself in a worst of all possible PG worlds.

    It is this dynamic that is the Achilles Heel of this KU team. It is why Tharpe’s performances vary so widely. If Perry is up against an LSA 4, he is not an every trip option. Selden and Wigs never are, because they cough it up too much. Tharpe suddenly finds him self with no one but Embiid, or Black, to pass to for a threat at the hoop. And unless Naa is at absolutely peak energy, and maximum mental clarity, he simply gets overwhelmed by the scheming against him; then he gets passive as we all do when overwhelmed.

    I have been as hard on Tharpe as anyone from the beginning, but I honestly believe that Tharpe would look like a sharply better PG, if he had wings he could go to every time down the floor as threats to put the ball on the deck without turning it over. Other teams would have to play Selden and Wiggins much more honestly and so all of this scheming against Tharpe would go away.

    What has happened over the course of the season is that early on Tharpe’s wings were just trying to figure it all out and Self was trying to play through them, so Tharpe got passive about being a threat himself. This meant that he was not taking advantage of the defenses that early on were over focused on stopping the reputed phenoms of Selden and Wiggins on the wings. Next, when it became apparent to opponents that Wiggins and Selden could not beat them from 3, they sagged way off them to stop the drive and for awhile only someone with the kind of blazing speed that Frank Mason has could get through the sagging defenses. Tharpe again was made to not look very good. Then opponents figured out that if you just guarded Selden and Wiggins hard, i.e. put your body on them, they would turn it over so much that Self really couldn’t afford to play through them because of how many turnovers they would commit. This lead to a period when Tharpe snapped out of passivity, found his trey, found that Embiid was more than just a stick back artist, and began to get in the paint. At that point, though, opposing defenses began to scheme hard on Tharpe and KU’s only answer to that for most games has been Embiid. And when Embiid got hurt, that meant that Tharpe was being put under enormous defensive pressure from all sides and his only viable, every-trip counter strategy, Joel Embiid, could not get her done either. Black seemed to be an option, but he fouled too much intermittently and could only get untracked offensively intermittently. Lucas was tried and though he “looked” good as usual, he could not relieve the pressure on Tharpe with Lucas’ offensive game in its then current state of development.

    On the offensive end, what Tharpe needs most right now is for either Black, or Lucas, or Ellis, or Jam Tray, to become an every trip, every game threat to go 15/10–a viable scoring threat capable of hanging 15 efficiently the way Joel could and getting enough stick backs to keep the opponent from getting brazen about releasing three and running on KU every trip. Its a tall order, but Tharpe needs at least one every trip option. Note: Joel also forces teams to release only two every trip, or get murdered on the glass.

    The other possibility is that Self lets it all ride on Selden and Wiggins starting now and hopes they have played enough D1 ball to figure out how to protect, while they are impacting every trip–a game like OSU makes that a scary .

    But the good news IMHO is that there AREN’T any other Marcus Smart’s with a Markel Brown and a LeBryan Nash out there this year that can put the kind of pressure on KU that OSU did.

    I’m not saying Tharpe is a sound guard in every way yet, nor am I saying that Naa is maintaining his mental focus as well as is within his power to do. I am just trying to cut him an amount of slack that he is do given the wings he plays with, who while they have grown defensively, continue to struggle with protection when asked to operate extensively with the ball.

    So: while you and I have been proselytizing for some Lucas experimenting, what I think is more likely to happen is that Self is going to stand up in front of the team and say, “Guys, our big man is out for a couple of games and so it is time for great players to make great plays. We’re going to shift the scoring load back around to Big Wayne and Andrew. We’re going to break down opponents from the wings with ball screens and pick and rolls. We are done with the frontal assaults in the paint until Joel gets back. The big men are now going into stick back mode. They are going to sacrifice their bodies to get to any misses and cram them down the hole. You bigs, the gloves are off. You are free to foul as much and as often as you need to to get to the rebounds. No prisoners. Any misses by Big Wayne and Andrew go back in the hole, or people go down hard trying and take someone with them. Every time Big Wayne and Andrew touch the ball, its war. They are going to attack the rims like Flying Tigers attacking from the sun. They are coming down from on top and they are coming down with full force. Some backboards may get broken. Some rims may get bent the next few games. But the other teams are going to be looking at the soles of Big Wayne’s and Andew’s adidas coming down on them. You bigs. Everyone of you, and that includes you, Justin, everyone plays every game. We are the University of Kansas Jayhawk Flying Circus from here on out, and maybe after Joel gets back, too. I want to see any adidas on the floor that aren’t preparing for take off. I want whatever mistakes are made to be made above the shooting box. Hell, I expect to see hand prints on the top of the back boards. Tarick, I want to see 260 pounds of muscle above the rim casting a giant shadow–coming down on people. Jamari, those shoulders need to be above the rim every trip. We are going vertical, staying vertical and only coming down to go up again, you got that? Because of our footer, we have played on the X-axis. Without him, we are moving to the Y-axis. We’re in a dog fight for the next few games and we’re going to fight it out above the rim, And you guys are going to put some footprints on the tops of some heads. And we’re going to speed our opponents up. Sound like fun? I thought so.”

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Really good post… especially on the NBA. I heard they were “de-urbanizing” the game. They wanted to attract more kids… especially from suburbs. Makes sense… these are the kids with more spending power to buy merchandise.

  • @jaybate 1.0

    I think your post hit on a lot of spot on observations.

    My biggest gripe with Naadir are his TOs that are unforced. There just isn’t any excuse for any player to make these mistakes often, especially our starting PG! Out of all people who should take care of the basketball, PG must make it his #1 priority, especially since he’ll be handling the ball every position and for a big part of the possession.

    You hit on something… about Wayne and Andrew not being effective off the dribble. Andrew does get to the line often when he goes off the dribble, but I wonder how many possessions that cost us? He often loses his dribble or handle on the ball trying to bring it up for his shot. The ball goes flying askew while Andrew’s arm motions continue with the follow through. Very odd sometimes.

    And teams are starting to realize they would rather have these guys penetrate, then have them sit back and run some spacing so we can get into our real offense… which is the hi/lo. All a coach has to do is look at our individual FG%s and notice that all our interior players average over 60% (as a group). That means… shut down the post and we are left to live off of the perimeter. And since treys give 3 pts instead of 2, you can bet the preference is to force our perimeter players to drive.

    So it turns out that the one area of our game where we all felt like we would be very dominant this year, turns out to be our Achilles heel!

    It isn’t like we can’t drive the ball… but comparing it to the rest of our offense, it is where our opponents want us to spend our possessions. So they work hard to choke off our interior with double-teams, and they try to get a hand in the faces of our trey shots.

    We aren’t too bad of shots from mid range… when we actually take those shots.

    I don’t know about you… but another scoring option I like is what Virginia did to Syracuse… bring someone slashing around the FT line for an uncontested baby jumper! I think I’d put everyone but Embiid sometimes in the position to take that shot. And once you nail a few it forces open the rest of our offense.

  • @drgnslayr

    Tony Bennet is a very intelligent coach with a ton of how to gleaned from his dad, Dick Bennett, and Bo Ryan. I haven’t seen Virginia play yet more than just a little bit. But what you describe sounds a lot like what I used to see Dick Bennett run. I read where Tony said he had converted over to the Hi-lo out at Washington State, but the hi-lo can have old plays, or actions, as Justanothefan so insightfully described it, embedded in it. I am looking forward to seeing what you describe to see if it looks like the old stuff Dick Bennett developed.

    Regarding your insightful remarks about opponents choosing to shut down our bigs, and overplaying our guys out at the trey, that seems to describe a good bit of the scheming and more accurately than I did. Notice against OSU that all of Wigs’ treys were waaaaaaay the heck out there. They really want them driving, or passing back to Tharpe. My guess is they are now as you describe pressuring the long trey, not so much because our guys can drain it, but because they want to force our guys to drive. They close the lane for driving and try to force a dish to Tharpe. The key is that they want our wings dribbling and making choices with the ball, because they think they are prone to bad choices and TOs. And if they close the lane then force a dish to Tharpe and close on him if he penetrates, they’ve got us by the short hairs.

  • @jaybate 1.0

    “And if they close the lane then force a dish to Tharpe and close on him if he penetrates, they’ve got us by the short hairs.”

    Note to coach: Everyone man-scapes.

  • Was he Smart to stay another year? Did he not see all the incoming freshman that were coming and going on a OAD?

    Look last year he was going to be a top 10 pick, this year there are a lot of guys ahead of him and his own stunts have dropped him further.

    Will he even be a lottery pick this year?

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