And now for your daily dose of flopping, courtesy of Dwyane Wade and James Harden.
Okay, so maybe this particular play from Game 3 of the NBA Finals isn’t exactly your average flop. There’s no stepping in to take a hit or contact exaggerated by the recipient.
But there is plenty of acting involved, enough to convince the attendant referee to blow his whistle, and (ironically enough) both players in question are notorious floppers, the sort whose unseemly conduct commissioner David Stern frowns upon and now wants to stamp out of the game.
And for good reason. As Stern is so prone to spewing these days, players who “embellish” or fabricate contact are doing little more than tricking the officials rather than making good, sound basketball plays.
Granted, what they’re doing isn’t technically against the rules yet, though they are taking advantage of a loophole of sorts. They know, as do all players, that refs have their hands (and eyes) full when calling a game. It’s up to three people in zebra stripes to keep track of 10 oversized human beings at one time and, among other things, determine on the fly how much contact is too much given the players involved and the activity on the court.
Acting, then, is essentially a way for players like Wade and Harden to exploit how thinly spread each official’s attention is at any moment in time. It’s a way for guys to (attempt to) gain an advantage in a way that’s neither within nor outside of the current rules. Those in question are using a dash of fakery to force officials to make calls that probably wouldn’t exist otherwise.
In that sense, it’s hard to fault serial floppers for doing what they do. They’re trying to win by any means necessary, even if that means rubbing fans, fellow players, coaches, officials and league bigwigs the wrong way.
And it’s not quite as “egregious” a skirting of conventions as, say, the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Flopping doesn’t show up on the stat sheet and doesn’t translate to bigger paydays for those who employ it as an in-game tactic.
What’s often lost, though, is that flopping isn’t a fail-safe way of improving one team’s chances of success. Some flops prompt charge calls, while others result in blocks and leave the opposition with a free path to the basket and no whistle to stop him. From that standpoint, it’s incumbent upon coaches and teammates to discourage flop artists from trying to paint masterpieces, lest they put their own team’s success at risk.
The bigger issue, though, is what flopping does to the league’s standard of officiating. Namely, it degrades that standard by distracting the refs’ fleeting attention from other plays that might actually warrant a foul call.
Which, when it comes down to it, is why actors like Wade and Harden should be admonished, and why the league itself must take steps to ensure its ability to do just that. The quality of officiating often has a direct impact on the quality of the product that the NBA is pushing. The game’s integrity, already damaged by the Tim Donaghy scandal and the yearly conspiracy theories surrounding the draft lottery, might just be at stake.
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