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James Harden had a fine-worthy flop in Game 3

May 22, 2011, 3:00 PM EDT

James Harden

I’ve come a long way on flopping. The natural human instinct towards flopping is to treat it with bile-ridden disgust, turning to effusive outrage in egregious cases. Fans complicate this. Your guy flops and it’s a “savvy, veteran move.” The other guy does it and he’s a “stinking cheater who flops like a (European).” In reality, flopping plays a very integral part of the NBA. Contact is so common and so fast in the NBA that players need to exaggerate it in order to ensure that they get the call they deserve. No one does this better than the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs aren’t inventing contact on offense, they’re just making it extremely hard on the official to not call the foul. Defensively is another issue, that’s trying to manipulate the system to change the rules of the game. And whether you like it or not, that’s effective.

The more you watch the league the more okay you become with it. If you really start to notice how much contact NBA players, especially the good ones, absorb, you start to sympathize with the idea that you have to do something to get the officials to make the call you need them to make. After all, we always talk about the respect we have for players who will do anything to win. Egregious flopping is just the pride-surrendering extension of that ideal.

But there’s got to be a line, right? There has to be a point where a player is just acting to try and influence the game. Especially if it’s drawing technical fouls after a play. A prime example of that is the sad and pathetic display James Harden put on in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals as his Thunder were getting blown out of the water.


Van Gundy’s got a point. There has to be a point where the league reviews these plays and some level of adequate punishment is assessed. Flopping may be a necessary evil in today’s NBA. But influencing the outcome of games by fabricating contact does a disservice to every player who’s made a tough and-one while getting hammered.

And Harden? To channel possible future Warriors coach Mark Jackson? “You’re better than that.”

Harden had seven points on 2-9 shooting Saturday night with one assist and two turnovers in a six point loss to the Mavericks in a game where Oklahoma City held a 36-18 free throw advantage.

  1. jstrizzle - May 22, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    I found the play kind of comedic. Of course Van Gundy and Mark Jackson got into it over that

  2. bittersonicsfan - May 22, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Van Gundy for commissioner! Harden flopped, J.J. Barrea flops a lot, I’m tired of these floppers

  3. readysethike - May 22, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    So your basically saying fine the players who act like they got fouled? That would be ridiculous

  4. electstat - May 22, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    I you are going to fine a player for “acting” like they got fouled, then fine the stupid players that act like they never commit a foul when they maul someone. Then fine Barkley for being an idiot, and fine the other announcers for acting like they are above the game instead of announcing the game.

    By the way, it’s possible by looking at the clip that the elbow could have caught him.

    • jstrizzle - May 22, 2011 at 4:19 PM

      I did think it hit him a bit. But I really doubt it was the blow that threw him to the ground in such agony.

    • passerby23 - May 22, 2011 at 6:01 PM

      As Moore pointed out, there’s a difference between “selling” what already is a foul and a blatant flop. In a lot of instances, we can argue it’s a matter of subjectivity. But, then there are instances like this one where Chandler is punished for Harden’s theatrics. If it’s a close game, that could be a crucial call.

      To me, it didn’t look like the elbow hit him. I think at best it’s a no call, at worst a fine for disrespectful flop.

  5. delius1967 - May 22, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    Not only did Hardin flop, he should have been assessed a technical himself for shoving Chandler during that play. Watch it again, after he makes the basket, he deliberately gets up in Chandler’s grill and gives him a two-arm shove. It was when Chandler made the move to disengage that he swung his arm nearHardin (though didn’t appear to actually hit him), and Hardin went down grabbing his face. It would have been pathetic for any grown man to do, let alone a professional athlete.

    A lot of flopping takes place in the context of trying to draw a charge, but this wasn’t even during a play which makes it even more eye-rolling. I think the Thunder have realized that Chandler is too much for them and they are resorting to underhanded tactics to limit his effectiveness. First we had Perkins with his grammar-mangling statement of mutual hatred (which Chandler laughed off). Now Hardin is getting into the act. Next up: Ibaka photoshops Chandler’s face on Ted Kaczynski’s body and accuses him of kicking puppies.

    Come on, OKC. You’re better than this.

  6. thetooloftools - May 22, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    This is LeBron James. Why didn’t they mention me in the story ?
    It’s all about me.

  7. fordman84 - May 23, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    Flopping shouldn’t be an automatic fine, but when it goes over the line and slows the game down then it should. In this instance, Harden is rolling around on the floor to really sell it and it stops the game. That should be a fine. If a guy is barely bumped and falls down and gets a call, then good for him and boo for the ref for falling for it. But as long as the game is not slowed more than any other foul, let it go. Writhing on the floor in agony for 2 minutes when nothing happened, should be a $15k fine.

  8. jwalkingincarolina - May 23, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Can’t stand it, especially the blatant flops, I.E. Harden. And that bush league move Durant does when he brings the ball through the defender and goes to free throw line for three shots… GTFOHWTB. Give them a tech. If I see its a flop on TV you refs should see it two feet away.

    Flopping? now that’s being a f*****g f****t

  9. Brian - May 23, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    No need to fine the player. Just let the refs for the next game see the tape and tell them to watch for it a little more closely. Suddenly that player isn’t getting the flopping calls as often and the game corrects itself.

  10. drakost - May 23, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    And the Oscar goes to… All joking aside, I firmly believe that selling a foul is part of the game. That is not selling a foul. That is is a flat out flop. There is a big differance. I tell you what, something like that deserves a Mchale style clothsline in the next game. (For those who don’t know what I’m talking about follow this link: )

  11. kyleortonsarm - May 23, 2011 at 11:00 PM

    It’s entirely possible he is, in fact, a gigantic pussy.

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