Boston Celtics: Is Marcus Smart’s Flopping Jeopardizing His Health?

Feb 22, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) reacts after the whistle in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Wolves win 124-122 over the Celtics. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 22, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) reacts after the whistle in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Wolves win 124-122 over the Celtics. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports /

Boston Celtics guard, Marcus Smart is known for his elite defensive skillset, but are his flopping tendencies putting his health in jeopardy?

For decades now, NBA players have utilized the art of exaggerating contact to gain an advantage against their opponents. Now, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart seems to be the next in line. This behavior, or rather, ‘art-form’ is also commonly known as flopping, and has been an egregious issue that the NBA has tried to tackle for years.

Considering the entirety of NBA history, it became most popular in the 2000s, when players such as Vlade Divac, Shane Battier and Manu Ginobili became commonly associated with making the tactic so popular.

More from Hardwood Houdini

As more players began to benefit from their embellishments, it took on a mainstream effect in the early-2010s. It had become standard regime for most players in the NBA during this time. So much so that flopping was probably the only knock against the best player in the world, LeBron James.

It was just two years ago that Smart was bullying his college opponents on the basketball court with his physically imposing 230-pound frame. That’s not to say that he didn’t flop, he certainly was known to embellish contact once or twice a game at the college level. However, many were able to brush it off, assuming he was just a young player finding what works for him on the court.

Smart’s entire NBA intrigue revolved around his broad body frame, which is rare for a collegiate guard, so many hoped that he would grow into a defensive pest built like a brick wall at the next level.

He did, but flopping never quite died out for Smart. In fact, it became more dangerous.

There has probably been a time that you were watching a basketball game and felt uneasy about what could  happen. Consider any Los Angeles Lakers game in the last decade, for instance. Every time Kobe Bryant would receive the ball, there was this innate feeling in every basketball fans gut, a feeling that he was going to take a bad shot. It didn’t matter if he made the shot, but you just knew there was a chance that things could take a ridiculous turn.

Marcus Smart is the defensive equivalent, giving Celtics fans a queasy feeling in their stomachs, unknowing of whether he will make one of the biggest defensive plays of the year or be the star of Shaqtin’ a Fool the following week.

His flop against Carmelo Anthony last season was complete madness. He intentionally flung his body to the hardwood in the most violent way possible, drawing a combination of laughter and displeasure from the Knicks crowd, but not a whistle.

While the intent is obvious, it must make Celtics fans, players and coaching staff somewhat uneasy when they see Smart make a play like this as often as he does. Bostonians expect their team to ride Smart’s coattails into the future of the franchise, but this can’t be done if he continues to jeopardize his body, and potentially create injury-prone situations for himself.

Depending on what end of the floor a player is, a flop will generally be much different when comparing offensive and defensive flops.

Offensive players will often flop to exaggerate a slap on the arm by flailing their arms or kicking out their leg. Considering the potential chance of injury, these types of flops are generally much safer, in theory.

However, Smart seems to prefer flopping on the defensive end, drawing charges and offensive fouls being his primary intention. To do this, he will throw his body at the floor as hard as possible, probably making the loudest noise he can in hope to make a crack in the hardwood.

At some point, every basketball player learns how to fall to reduce risk of injury, it’s an important part of the game. Smart has seemed ignorant to this idea, falling flat on his back without bracing his fall, risking spinal or back injury, just in the hope to hear the referee blow the whistle.

His infamous flop against the Atlanta Hawks in this years playoffs takes the cake, though. It is the greatest of them all.

As fantastic as the flop might be, the reality is, he didn’t get the call and it was ridiculously dangerous. More to the point, though, it wasn’t even believable!

Smart probably thought, “damn, this 35-year-old shooter [Kyle Korver] just got into a better rebounding position than me, I should probably put on a show and draw a cheap one, it’ll totally  work.”

Smart jumped, and just kept elevating. If you dissect in enough detail, you can see there’s a point in which he flails his body after he realizes that he’s made a big mistake. With nothing else to land on he falls straight onto his spinal area, instantly grimacing and clutching his back with his hand.

As the commentators mentioned, Smart had bruised his ribs the game beforehand, so with that in mind, putting his ribs, back or even his head in jeopardy was a careless move.

The Celtics will be looking to move forward with strong-minded players with careful strategy to win games. It’s no question that Smart has the defensive prowess and playing ability to develop into a premier guard for Boston in the future, but it seems his basketball IQ needs some improvement.

The ability to pick when it’s appropriate to try a subtle flop will be a big factor going forward for Smart. On a number of plays each game it seems he gets indecisive on whether to be the defensive weapon we know he is or to exaggerate contact unnecessarily.

Next: Boston Celtics Player Profile: Avery Bradley

For Smart, it’s all a matter of mental and physical development on the basketball court and with the veteran tutelage of some of Boston’s newest recruits, I’m sure he’ll find a much safer way to become a defensive menace.