It’s been impossible to avoid the discourse. Ever since Marcus Smart dove for a loose ball and inadvertently injured Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors and NBA fans everywhere have been debating the legitimacy of Smart’s play.
The Golden State Warriors will be without Stephen Curry for two weeks after Marcus Smart dove onto his ankle in pursuit of a loose ball.
First, let’s break down the play itself. Early in the first half, the ball was tipped out of Jayson Tatum’s hands and a scramble ensued. Smart, almost instantly, threw himself on top of the ball to secure the possession.
In his way was Curry, who ultimately suffered a left foot injury as Smart’s body weight crushed him at an awkward angle.
Steve Kerr has said Smart’s dive was dangerous while Juan Toscano-Anderson told reporters post-game that he did not think the play was dirty.
From my perspective, the real way to describe Smart’s pursuit of the loose ball and overall play style is reckless.
The difference between dirty and reckless
NBA Players have incredible spatial awareness and control over their movements. More often than not, the reason injuries are avoided in the first place, is because of this.
In the case of Marcus Smart, no one can blame him for making the hustle play to secure possession. In fact, most people will praise him for doing the dirty work.
The issue here is not that Smart is a dirty player or that he was intentionally trying to injure Curry — it’s that he plays with reckless abandonment that leads to a tendance for these types of plays to happen.
There is no debate Smart was aware of Curry’s presence when he dove for the ball. As a player, winning the game is your top priority but that should not come at the expense of injuring opponents.
It is Smart’s responsibility to control his body when diving onto the floor for a loose ball. Simply taking a different angle would have still given Smart the best chance at winning the possession AND sparing Curry from a freak injury.
If you think I am being soft — watch a montage of players diving for loose balls and pay close attention to the subtle way they twist and turn their bodies in order to avoid crashing into vulnerable players.
Skip to 1:40 of this clip to see a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Alex Caruso could have easily slammed into Eric Gordon’s knees but instead contorts his upper body to protect Gordon from a potentially devastating injury.
Ultimately, Smart is not a dirty player but his reckless pursuit of the basketball has cost the Warriors and NBA fans with Curry now on the sidelines.