3 Solutions to the NBA's Flopping Problem

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIIMay 14, 2012

3 Solutions to the NBA's Flopping Problem

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    The issue of flopping has finally moved from the hard courts to the boardrooms in the NBA.

    The "flop" is, of course, a somewhat subjective issue. It really boils down to a player in the NBA absorbing a small or moderate amount of physical contact and then having a reaction that would suggest the physical contact is far more intense and had far more impact than it really did. All of this is done in an effort to draw a foul.

    The results are maddening.

    Each NBA player can only commit six personal fouls per game. Any additional foul can alter a player's time on the court. Drawing a fourth personal foul in the middle of the third quarter could easily cause that player's head coach to bench the player until the fourth quarter in an effort to prevent him from drawing a fifth foul before the game's most crucial 12 minutes have even started.

    The flop can remove key players from parts of games. That can have a major impact on the outcome.

    No one should get away with fouling a player, but conversely, should a player get charged with a foul when no foul has been committed?

    Sunday, NBA Commissioner David Stern was asked about the issue (via ESPN.com):

    I think it's time to look at (flopping) in a more serious way because it's only designed to fool the referee. It's not a legitimate play in my judgment. I recognize if there's contact (you) move a little bit, but some of this is acting. We should give out Oscars rather than MVP trophies.

    With Stern going public to express his displeasure with the practice, the potential for some sort of rules change can no longer just be considered the province of belly-aching fans. 

    What types of rule changes are we talking about?

    Nothing has been officially proposed as of now, at least not publicly, but here are some suggestions.  

The Extra Personal

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    Once you've viewed the clip above, it's easy to see why this has become an issue.

    LeBron James has a reputation as a player who flops frequently. Regardless of whether he does or doesn't, there can be little dispute that the foul he drew on Brendan Haywood was in fact a "flop."

    What if, instead of Haywood getting a personal foul and Rick Carlisle then drawing a technical foul, the foul had gone against LeBron? That foul would be called not for taking the type of incidental contact that takes place on nearly every NBA possession, but for making it appear as if Haywood had mugged him by flailing backwards and gesturing with his arms.

    This type of solution seems good, but it also would have plenty of drawbacks. Would refs have to go and look the play over first? That would extend games and add annoying delays to broadcasts and break up the flow of the game.

    Of course, if there was a real risk of LeBron drawing a foul, then perhaps he never flops in the first place.

A Postgame Penalty Enforced Retroactively

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    What if Blake Griffin were assessed a fine in the aftermath of the acting displayed in the video clip to the left?

    What if he were forced to start the next game with one personal foul already assessed?

    Both options should be on the table. The best idea might be a progressive combination of both.

    A fine won't have a serious impact unless it is a fairly high dollar amount. You can't continually add personal fouls to a player's docket.

    Perhaps the first three flops of the season could net fines and then flops four through eight would mean a fine plus a personal foul added to a player's foul total in the next game. Anything beyond eight could mean a higher fine plus two personals to start the next game.

    The issue should not automatically be reset come playoffs. Stars that flop their way through the regular season should not be able to start the playoffs with a clean slate.

    Placing a player's ability to perform in the postseason in jeopardy could have serious consequences on future contracts and individual legacies as well as on the eventual success of that player's team.

    That would place added pressure on stars and players on the league's best teams to not accumulate these types of fouls over the course of the regular season.

    The best part about the retroactive fines and penalties is that it would eliminate or at least lessen the ability of referees to make poor flopping calls in games and thus lessen the potential for a bad flopping call ruining a team's prospects of winning a game.

A Technical Foul

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    When you watch and listen to the video above, you hear a spirited debate about the issue of flopping and how best to deal with it.

    Mike Breen makes the point that all "flops" are going to be subjective.

    Former head coach Jeff Van Gundy agrees but makes a solid point that all technical fouls are already subjective.

    Van Gundy seems to be campaigning for a policy on flopping similar to the one the NBA currently has in place regarding technical or flagrant fouls: different degrees of severity and, once the total number of infractions has reached a predetermined number, a suspension.

    This would be a combination of both the previous preventative measures in that the call would be made during the course of live action and could be enforced on the spot. Yet it would also include measures that would make violators pay more severe penalties as flops were accumulated over the course of a season.

Conclusion

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    So what should the league do?

    At one point, I personally felt like the issue was one that would only add complications to the game. After all, bad calls will happen no matter what rules are or are not in place.

    That doesn't mean that the league shouldn't make an effort to improve things. The key question is one of overall quality of the game.

    Is the NBA a better game, a better sport, if you allow the flopping to continue unchecked, or is it better if the sport enforces some sort of rule about it? That change is likely to cause debates about fairness and may also involve slowing down the action on the floor to review a replay.

    It's hard to watch international soccer matches and not feel as if allowing this issue to continue unchecked won't lead to more of it. International soccer has been critiqued for the practice. Some journalists have even gone so far as to call the practice "un-American."

    The NBA is a sport that was born and bred in America. It's a five-on-five matchup, and the ability to remove one of your opponent's players with an accumulation of fouls is just too tempting for players, even American-born ones, to resist.

    That would be a bit different if the act of flopping had consequences that could work against the player that was flopping, as opposed to it really only having the potential to work against the player that is the target of the flop.

    No matter what action is or is not taken, the game of basketball will always be played with physical contact. That contact will always exist, and the amount that is allowed, or not allowed, already draws plenty of controversy. Players, coaches and fans will always complain about officials calling fouls against them.

    The act of basically faking a foul only further muddies the waters for officials. Flopping impacts not just the play when it happens, but it may also have a residual impact as officials get used to looking for more dramatic reactions from physical contact as a means to determine what is and what is not a foul.

    Regardless of what course of action the league takes, it seems apparent that the time has come to curb this rapidly growing practice.