Getty Images

After punishment handed down, it’s time to move past Marcus Smart’s shove



The axes fell on Sunday evening.

Marcus Smart will be suspended for three games for shoving a fan late in Saturday night’s loss at Texas Tech. That fan, Jeff Orr, has voluntarily agreed to not attend any Texas Tech basketball games for the rest of the year.

And at this point, it is time to move on.

We have to move on.

Because we are never going to know what actually transpired between Smart and Orr. We are never actually going to know what Orr said and we’re never going to know what Smart actually heard.

After the incident, Smart could reportedly be heard on the court telling his bench that the fan had used a racial slur directed at him. Smart did not address what was said to him in the statement that he gave to the press at a press conference on Sunday, and Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said, simply, “We’re not going to get into that. That’s something that I don’t even want to comment on.”

Orr “vehemently” denied in a statement released by Texas Tech that he did not use a racial slur when yelling at Smart. He claims he called him a “piece of crap”, and in a video that the university released along with that statement, someone can be heard yelling “piece of crap” right before Smart’s reaction.

Was it Orr that actually said “piece of crap”? Was that all he said? There is plenty of noise in the background of the video, which makes it easy to be skeptical about the clarity of what Orr is purported to have said. Could this have been a case of mistaken identity?

Along those same lines, it’s fair to question Smart’s actions as well. Did he actually hear someone use a racial slur? Did he simply react to Orr yelling at him, and say that he heard the slur to try and defend himself? Was this as simple as Orr yelling one thing and, in the craziness of the final seconds of a college basketball game, Smart hearing another?

You don’t know the answer to any of those questions. Neither do I. The only people that actually do are Smart and Orr.

The bottom line?

Both of these men were in the wrong.

As I wrote last night, Smart crossed a line that absolutely cannot be crossed. An athlete can never, EVER put his hands on a fan in that situation, regardless of what was said to him. I can guarantee that even if Smart did get called the N-word on Saturday that it is not the first time some vile, disgusting person that bought a ticket* to a game said that to him. To the best of my knowledge, he’s never lashed out at people in the stands before. He allowed his emotions and his frustrations from a disappointing season to get the best of him, and he’s learning in a very public way that it cannot happen.

“This is not how I [conduct] myself,” Smart said. “This is not how this program is run. This is not how I was raised. I let my emotions get the best of me. This is something that I have to learn from, the consequences that are coming with it.”

“I’m taking full responsibility, this is all upon me. No finger pointing.”

*(I refuse to use the word “fan” in that case.)

Orr may come off looking worse here. A man in his 50s screaming anything at a college sophomore playing a game is somewhat pathetic, especially when it comes at the end of a game that Texas Tech had all but locked up. He may not be a racist — which is a fact that many are going to ignore in this case — but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he isn’t an idiot.

And that’s why he’ll be missing the rest of Tech’s basketball games this season.

So can we leave it at that?

A 20-year old with a temper and a competitive streak that gets the best of him when he loses lost control of his emotions in a season that has been as trying as any that he’s experienced. A fan got caught up in the moment and yelled something at a player that he never expected the player to actually hear or react to.

It doesn’t make Smart a bad person. Assuming that he didn’t use a slur, it doesn’t make Orr a bad person.

We all have moments that we regret, that we have to learn from.

Few of us have those moments play out live on national television before spending a couple of days rolling through the 24/7 news cycle that twitter and the internet has created.

As soon as I’m done writing this article, I’ll stop caring about Orr.

But for Smart, this may be just what he needed. He’s been a bit frustrating to watch this season. Between the horrid shot selection, the way he whines about calls and the way that he’s reacted to losses, this season hasn’t always been flattering for him.

He needed a wake-up call, and he got it.

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Throughout Tom Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State the team’s half-court man-to-man defense has been a staple, and the Spartans have generally proven difficult to have a high rate of offensive success against. The reliance on that defense is why Izzo’s conversations earlier this summer about using some token full-court pressure due to the shortening of the shot clock caught some people off-guard.

According to the Detroit Free Press there’s another wrinkle the Spartans may use, and it’s likely that this wrinkle will show up more often than the full-court press. During Friday’s opening practice the Spartans worked on a 2-3 zone, and Izzo wants his assistants to make sure the team works on the defense consistently throughout the season.

That’s also why zone in general isn’t going to get heavy play at MSU, but having it as a tool could be beneficial — especially in games with touch fouls on the perimeter called in droves.

“I told (my assistant coaches): ‘You hold me accountable to working on it every day some’ … I have a tendency to drift off on that, and I don’t want to drift off on it,” Izzo said of the 2-3 zone. “But we will be, rest assured, a 90-some percent man-to-man team still and hopefully take some of those principles to zone.”

As noted in the story one of the risks in using pressure is allowing quality shots, which is why it’s unlikely that Michigan State will go to it. But even with Izzo vowing that his team will work on the zone, that doesn’t mean they’ll be playing it as often as Syracuse does.

Man-to-man has been Michigan State’s staple and it will continue to be. But it doesn’t hurt to look for other ways to keep opponents from getting the looks they want, especially if teams have five fewer seconds to find those shots.

Virginia used 3-on-3 to adjust to new shot clock

Malcolm Brogdon
Associated Press
Leave a comment

When the college basketball rules committee made the decision to trim the shot clock down to 30 second from 35, one reason for the switch was the desire to improve offensive production. With offensive numbers at their lowest point in years, proponents of the move see the shot clock change as a necessary move if scoring is to improve.

Whether or not that winds up being the case will be seen throughout the upcoming season, but teams are still having to make adjustments during the preseason.

Virginia, which has played at a snail’s pace (and with great success, mind you) in recent years, made some adjustments to their summer work in anticipation of playing with a 30-second shot clock. One adjustment was more games of 3-on-3 with a 15-second shot clock, which forced all involved to be more decisive in their offensive decision-making.

While the pack-line defense will always be a staple of Tony Bennett’s teams, the feeling in Charlottesville is that they’ve got the offensive firepower needed to both play faster and be more efficient offensively than they were in 2014-15 (29th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy). One of the players who will lead the way is senior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who led the team in scoring and was a first team All-ACC selection, and he discussed the team’s outlook with Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

And even though Anderson’s highlight-reel shot blocking was the thing that frequently fueled fast-breaks for U.Va. last season, Brogdon and [Anthony] Gill said they expect this year’s team to actually push the tempo even more.

“I think we’re going to be a team that gets out and runs more,” Brogdon said. “I think we’ll have three guards on the floor, most of the time, will be able to handle the ball as a point guard and get out in transition. I think we’ll play a lot faster.”

Brogdon and Gill are two of the team’s three returning starters with point guard London Perrantes being the other, and the Cavaliers also return most of their reserves from last year’s rotation. That experience will help them on both ends of the floor as they prepare for a run at a third straight ACC regular season title. And in theory it also allows them to extend themselves a bit more offensively than they did a season ago.