The Harden virus

The Harden virus

When a player creates a league-wide effect, if his play is the foundation of a theory or a rule is changed because of him it is only right such a phenomenon carries his name. It sets a turning point in the league, the before and after if you will.

For instance, we have the Dwightbola virus. Anywhere Dwight goes, the locker room gets extremely annoyed, and his departure is always followed with a sigh of relief and a party. We are still waiting on a comprehensive piece with examples of the stuff Dwight would do that would be so universally annoying to all teammates.

Similar to this, there is the Ewing theory (by Dave Cirilli and Bill Simmons) –  “a star athlete receives an inordinate amount of media attention and fan interest, yet his team never wins anything substantial with him”; when he leaves everyone writes the team off, but they surprisingly play as good or even better.

When it comes to rules, we have:
The Ted Stepien Rule – coming from Cavs owner Ted Stepien who purchased the team in the 1980 and within several months traded four consecutive first-round draft picks. Under this rule, teams cannot trade consecutive first-round draft picks anymore.
The Magic Johnson rule – similar to Olympic rules, after Magic Johnson was to appear in the All-Star game after his announcement he has the HIV, all players with a visible wound need to step off the court, and there will be a stoppage of play to do so. They can come back in if there is no blood or open wounds that other players can come in contact with.
The Trent Tucker rule – a rule that disallows any regular shot to be taken on the court if the ball is put into play with less than three-tenths of a second left on the game or shot clock. The rule was passed after the 1989–90 season and named after New York Knicks player Trent Tucker after he made a game-winning shot with 0.1 seconds left on the game clock.
The Allan Houston rule – this rule allows a team to waive one player and have his salary not count against the luxury tax. They still have to pay the player in full and his salary counts against the cap, but it has no luxury tax implications.
The Larry Bird exception – this exception allows teams to re-sign their free agents without being penalized for going over the salary cap.  It also allows the team to offer a contract with a longer term.

Then there are “the Jordan Rules” which aren’t official rules, but a strategy Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons developed to try and limit Michael Jordan’s effect on the court. The strategy was (vis 30 for 30, Bad boys) “to play him tough, to physically challenge him and to vary its defenses so as to try to throw him off balance.”

We have the Nene test – a test to measure if you are a positive or a negative asset in trades on your current contract. As Nate Duncan described it in an interview by Ben Thompson. “The Nene Test is something that my colleague Danny Leroux came up with when Nene signed a contract with the Nuggets back at the end of 2011 and was traded shortly after. It basically says if you sign X player for X amount of dollars, is he an asset that you can trade and get something in return? Or is he a liability where you have to include another outgoing asset like another player or draft pick to move on from him?

Flopping for a foul while shooting isn’t new. Reggie Miller would kick his leg out only to provoke contact and get to the free-throw line. Lou Williams is a master of looking for contact to get to the line. But a man that mastered it to an absurd and ridiculous level is James Harden. Yesterday Josh Okogie tried one of the most shameless foul-hunting flops in recent memory.

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And they actually protested the no-call?!?!

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First of all, congrats to the ref for not calling it. Now let’s show this video to all the refs and make sure it is never called. There should be a whistle, but for an offensive flop. If you are such a good shooter that a guy throws himself at you and there is contact while you shoot, that’s cool. If you leverage it to make them choose either to give you space or you blow by them, that is smart basketball.

But when there is no contact, the defender already went by you, and you don’t look at the basket but glance the defender and jump into him, away from the basket, and in a completely unnatural shooting motion just to draw a foul it should be an offensive flop, two free throws and the ball for the opponent. This is not a basketball play.

If the league ever officially addresses this in the rulebook it should without a doubt be called the James Harden rule. Such action is not obvious at the time, but it’s the holidays, a man can dream. Until then, I will call it the Harden virus.

Here is how you diagnose it: imagine aliens visiting Earth and watching a game. If they think the winner is whoever had more points combined with fouls drawn, you are infected with the Harden virus. Symptoms include jumping into defenders, flailing on shots and drives, holding a player under one hand and pretending he is fouling you, leaning on them and raising your feet from the ground, all followed by dramatic eye-contact with the refs. Your overall performance makes it seem like the primary goal of the play was to get a foul call while scoring or playmaking is a potential side-benefit.

Let me be clear; Harden is not the first guy to do any of these things. He is the first one to reach Machiavellian proportions and combines them all into a unique level of absurdity.P.S. It did occur to me we may need the Harden Rule for his traveling on step-backs. While the league still uses the “perfectly timed gather step” (to quote Jackie McMullin, I call shenanigans) defense, maybe one day they do amend the rules. We still have time, for now, I’m at “the Harden two-step” or “the Harden waltz.” Feel free to send us your suggestions.