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National Columnist

Flops beneath Durant, shows strategy's embarrassing to NBA

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Despite Durant's plea for a call in Game 3, officials declined to whistle a foul on the Spurs. (Getty Images)  
Despite Durant's plea for a call in Game 3, officials declined to whistle a foul on the Spurs. (Getty Images)  

SAN ANTONIO -- When Kevin Durant is doing it, you know there's a problem. And Durant is definitely doing it, flopping like a fish out of water, craving the oxygen that is a bogus call from a fooled referee.

Durant is doing it because that's what NBA players do nowadays. They flop. It's like soccer in sneakers -- and don't you sit there, NBA fans, and act like this is OK. It's not, and you know it's not, and the excuse that "everyone does it" only works in places where people are too lazy to think for themselves. So think for yourself and answer the question:

Is flopping an acceptable form of competition?

When a Duke basketball player flops, do you like it?

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When a soccer player flops, do you like it?

No way. It's embarrassing, beneath the sport, any sport, but in particular it's beneath a sport as testosterone-driven as the NBA, where players stare each other down at the slightest provocation, as if this sport here, this game of basketball we're playing? It's no game, cuz. This is life, and if you look at me the wrong way, it's on.

Acting hard and tough, and then flopping or flailing for a phantom foul call from a referee, is ludicrous when done by the same person. Either you're one or the other. Be hard like Rambo, or be a pretty boy like Robert Pattinson. But don't be both.

But that's where Kevin Durant has gone -- to the same place where Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and the best NBA players today have gone. They've gone to places reserved for pretty-boy actors and ridiculous soccer players. They've gone floppy.

These aren't charging fouls, either. I'm not talking about standing still as an enormous human being barrels down on you, and then falling as that enormous human being draws close, hoping (yes) to draw a foul but also hoping to get out of the way before getting crushed. Those look bad, but those make a little bit of sense. The assumption is, you're about to get crushed. Better to start falling early so as to not get hurt too badly.

But the flopping that NBA players do today? Flailing their arms, kicking out their legs, diving to the floor? Guys aren't doing that as they play defense. They're doing it on offense, after shots, sometimes during a shot.

Durant did it Thursday night in Game 3, dribbling on the baseline before pulling up from 14 feet for a jumper. Spurs defender Stephen Jackson was contesting the shot, as he's allowed to do. He was close, as he's allowed to be. Durant didn't like it, or was scared by it, or something, because he kicked his feet in Jackson's direction, as if to draw contact, and then after releasing the shot he threw both arms out wide as if he were a puppet and someone (Jackson?) was pulling the strings. And then for good measure he slid to the floor as the shot slipped through the net.

The referees weren't fooled, but Thunder fans were. They screamed and they booed, and they filed it away -- Remember that time KD was crushed, and no call was made? -- for future reference as proof the officials, maybe even the NBA as a whole, was out to get them.

Flopping is dangerous, see. It plays to the weakest part of the population, the largest part, the part that wants so desperately to believe there's a conspiracy against our side, whoever our side is. The NBA is rife with conspiracy theorists, with media members like Bill Simmons taking to Twitter to rile up Celtics fans with theories that the NBA ignored Dwyane Wade's foul on Rajon Rondo late in Game 2, just like the NBA didn't call nearly enough fouls on Wade and LeBron during the game, because the NBA wants the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. That's the sort of nonsense that has people honestly believing the NBA doctored the recent draft lottery to give New Orleans the No. 1 pick. People believe this stuff because they're told to believe it. And people do as they're told.

NBA referees? They do as they're told more than anyone I've ever seen. They didn't fall for Durant's theatrics, which was shocking given that an NBA star who wants a foul called will usually get the foul called. Kobe Bryant has padded his scoring total for years with phantom fouls that become real free throws, by dribbling into traffic for impossible shots and then, as he recognizes the impossibility of the shot, flailing his arms and groaning loudly as if he were hit by a 2-by-4. Referees are human, and they see Kobe acting distressed, and they assume there's something to it. And there is.

Kobe's a faker.

But they're all fakers. Dwyane Wade is the worst flopper I've seen this side of a South American soccer match. Watch him rise for a contested shot. If the defender reaches for the ball, Wade parachutes on the shot -- doesn't even try to make it -- and instead throws out both arms and both legs, as if he's Mr. Potato Head and he's falling to pieces. It's hilarious until the whistle blows, and then it's pathetic. But somehow Wade goes to the foul line with his head held high, as if he's earned it.

NBA commissioner David Stern was right a few weeks back when he said flopping was a major problem in the NBA, noting "it's only designed to fool the referee" and then lamenting that the league "should give out Oscars rather than MVP trophies."

He's right, and you know he's right. Everyone does it? That doesn't mean everyone's right. It means everyone's wrong.

It means everyone's playing soccer. And I thought you hated soccer.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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