So, here is a college basketball riddle: When is crashing into the opponent's bench in a desperate attempt to save a loose ball not a hustle play?
When it's Grayson Allen that does the crashing.
Allen is a talented but erratic Duke guard who it is becoming clear might be destined to be remembered forevermore as a serial tripper and dirty player rather than as a potential player of the year.
The latest incident occurred Tuesday night in Tallahassee, Fla. (An 88-72 Seminoles victory, by the way.) Allen went flying into the Florida State bench in pursuit of a loose ball and did indeed appear to shove Seminoles assistant coach Dennis Gates. Allen was going to slam into Gates — who was not really moving aside — anyway even had he not shoved Gates with his hands.
Was there malicious intent? Who can say? Gates, himself, shoved aside the controversy Wednesday with a strong statement defending Allen and calling it a hustle play.
This is the new reality for Allen. Every move he makes will be scrutinized, as Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde put it, like the Zapruder film.
Make no mistake: Allen brought this on himself. The three blatant tripping incidents, including one this season, were ridiculous, unsportsmanlike and deserving of suspension. (Duke announced an indefinite suspension on Dec. 21 that ended up totaling one game when Allen returned on Jan. 1.)
Reasonable people can argue whether the suspension was punitive enough, or whether the Atlantic Coast Conference should have stepped in and handed out its own punishment.
Reasonable people also can argue whether the push on Tuesday night, or the awkward near trip from the Saturday victory against Boston College were more evidence of dirty play.
What is not in dispute is this: Allen had better watch his step. Every step.
It is unfortunate that a 21-year-old college student has to face this sort of surveillance every time he moves — and very little escapes notice in the age of social media.
But, as was written long ago, you reap what you sow.