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Don't Stop The Flop

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Let's stop pretending Marcus Smart is the first player in the history of the basketball to draw fouls via flopping, over-selling contact or "gamesmanship." Whatever you want to call it, Smart has his moments in every game but you know the old adage, "don't hate the player, hate the game."

It would be different if, you know, Smart wasn't any good. Better players always have and always will get more lenience from officials. You can call out LeBron for flopping until you're blue in the face, but that won't hinder his dominance. Chris Paul does it. Blake Griffin does it. Even Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba himself, flails his arms to draw free throws every time he gets stripped on a drive. James Harden might be the most notorious flopper these days.

Would those guys be better players if they never "acted" on the court? Does it make them lesser players because they do it? Of course not.

The same is true with Smart. The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year is having an outstanding season. His points, shooting percentages (both inside and outside the arc) and free-throw attempts are up from last year, while his turnovers and fouls are down. And he's doing it all in fewer minutes per game. If Smart was a lesser player, say a role player off the bench, then, maybe, he loses the benefit of the doubt when a ref blows the whistle. If he was a "one-trick-pony," solely in the game to agitate, play defense and draw fouls, you might see the refs hold their whistles when he falls down. But they can't do that with Marcus because he's too good. Without counting the flopping incidents, he already takes more contact (both offensively and defensively) than any guard in the league.

As a result, officials aren't going to change the way they call the game because of what happened at Kansas, when Jayhawk freshman Wayne Selden pivoted with his elbows extended and brushed Smart's face giving Smart the opportunity to throw his head back like he'd been butted by Zinedine Zindane on the soccer pitch. Big 12 refs have seen this for years. It won't suddenly make them better at their jobs.

Some might say, "Well, he's 6-foot-4 and 220-pounds of muscle, he doesn't need to sell contact to be successful." True, but it sure doesn't hurt. The NBA implemented an anti-flopping rule last season resulting in a warning for a first offense and then $5,000 fines for repeat offenders.

There's nothing like that in college basketball, flop away!

There are certainly avenues that can be taken to fix this growing issue in the college game. One ironic solution may be to take a page out of soccer's book. Perhaps a yellow card/red card system would keep players like Smart from "selling it" as much. Most flops are easier to spot on replay anyway. Let a league official police this in between games. Give a first-time offender a yellow card and if he blatantly flops again show him the red, suspend him for a game and call it good.

But that's beside the point.

Many speculate that Smart has hurt his reputation around Big 12 coaching circles by lowering himself and stooping to such a level, blah, blah, blah. Who cares? Marcus shouldn't; these are the same guys who nominated him for Player of the Year in the preseason and there isn't one of them who would turn down a chance to coach Smart in his brief college career. Even if his reputation is sullied, this won't affect him on the court, and that's where it counts.

We don't have to like it, but there's no reason for Smart to change the way he plays, flopping and all.

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