The league has announced a new plan for fining players for their flops, in the hope that an economic incentive will curtail such antics. While I applaud the NBA's inclination toward reform, I don't believe this is the best way to go about it.
The NBA even released an instructional video demonstrating which acting shows will cost the actor. Up until this point, everything seemed to be on the up and up. An activity that people dislike will be punished, rendering said activity less prevalent.
There are snags, though.
This video refuses to address the more galling flops in the game. The pervasive "selling" of defensive charges will continue unpunished, which is a lot like saying that online gambling will be banned—save for poker and sports betting.
Players will not be fined for falling over during post defense, either. In my mind, this is the most annoying flop of all, as it should be impossible to foul an opponent with your back. Smaller players rely on this fake-out in lieu of real defense. J.J. Barea is among the worst offenders, as refs are inclined to cut him far too much "Awww, but he's so widdle!" slack.
But those are small gripes compared to this larger one: The NBA's video appears quite arbitrary and even cruelly callous at points.
The clips cite some obvious acting (Reggie Evans, take a bow, but please do so without falling over and clutching your face), but there are other plays that could be quite natural. You could argue that Tony Parker and Chris Paul were flopping in their shame clips, but you could just as easily argue that fouls threw two smallish stars off course.
Also, the NBA admits that some of these are legitimate fouls that the fouled oversold. This begs the question: How big a deal is all this if flops are cluing refs into what they should be calling anyway?
The most questionable accused "flop" belongs to Danilo Gallinari, after he got shouldered by 7-footer Pau Gasol on a pick.
Steve Kerr seems quite convinced that Gallo is flopping, but then again, Kerr is convinced that NBA players would benefit from staying in school—and there's no proof of that, either ("There's a history of flopping with the Euros," Kerr reminds the American TV audience).
The NBA's clip describes Danilo's fall as an "apparent demonstration of injury" and "gross over-embellishment."
I must say that I felt quite "gross" after watching this. There is no proof that Gallinari faked his reaction to getting shouldered in the face, save for that he's European and we all know what that means.
With this video, the NBA is announcing that it wants to get in the business of retroactively telling players how hurt they were. If Stern's serious, let the unintended consequences commence. I could see players faking injuries beyond the call if it means keeping their money, and I could see players suing the league if it means keeping their money.
Of course, the NBA might not be serious.
This could be one big threat designed to scare players straight. Or, as the conspiracy thinking goes, the video could be yet another planned Stern media distraction.The mini film could also be a PR nod to solving a problem that the league has no intention of addressing.
None of these possible scenarios are good if you want to believe in this sport as serious or well-run.
The underlying issue is that pro basketball is admitting to referee incompetence. I say this because, in theory, egregious flops could be called as flagrant fouls, and the issue would be done with. But the NBA is so intent on compensating for that which refs don't notice, that there are now player fines in place to account for their gullibility.
This is ironic because the biggest fines often go to players and coaches who dare rip the refs. The following will be fined in Stern's NBA:
1. Criticizing infallible referees, thus tarnishing their public image.
2. Fooling these referees, who can't be expected to notice what's happening on a basketball court.
It's a combination that makes me feel inclined to grab my face and writhe around.