The NBA's new anti-flopping rule is a nice PR move, but it won't make much of a difference on the game itself. Flopping has been a part of basketball for years, but it became a hot topic during last year's playoffs when some players put on their best acting performances in an attempt to draw fouls.
"Flops have no place in our game -- they either fool referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into thinking the referees missed a foul call," said NBA Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson in the league's press release on the new policy.
It's understandable for the league to want to nip "flopping" in the bud. That being said, Jackson's opinion that flopping tricks referees into making bad foul calls or coerces fans into believing the refs are tucking their whistles is a bit off.
Fans are always going to argue foul calls, regardless of what rules the league puts in place. When you leave judgement calls in the hands of human error, you're going to get decisions that aren't universally agreed upon. This new rule won't curtail flopping, but it will add to more controversy involving the league's officiating.
For instance, who gets to decide what a "flop" is? Will there be a special board that, after hours of meticulous studying, will pronounce themselves as flopping experts? Also, should notorious floppers such as the Spurs' Manu Ginobili and new Rockets guard James Harden feel singled out or targeted by this new rule? Will superstars like reigning MVP LeBron James or Lakers guard Kobe Bryant get the benefit of the doubt because of their popularity and drawing power?
"I don't know how they're going to gauge what's a flop and what's not a flop," James told NBA.com. "Sometimes it's obvious, but it doesn't change my approach."
In the press release, Jackson says that "any player who the league determines, after video review, to have committed a flop should -- after a warning -- be given an automatic penalty." I'm assuming that penalty will be coming after the fact, but what about when it occurs in the game itself? You're not going to fine a guy for flopping right then and there, so what stops him from taking a dive if it means winning the game?
That brings me to the other issue with this new rule. The penalties for flopping are mild to say the least. The first offense leads to a warning. The next offense will be a $5,000 fine. From there, the fines go up $5,000 until the sixth offense, which leads to an increased fine and/or suspension. That means every player in the league gets five strikes before there's even the possibility of something more severe than being docked $30,000.
What is $30,000 to a professional basketball player making tens of millions of dollars? How can any NBA player take this new rule seriously when he has five chances to flop before anything serious happens and the fines leading up to that serious punishment are relatively minuscule?
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin had another interesting take on the matter.
"...now you're telling me if it's Game 7 of the NBA Finals and a guy has a chance to make a play he's going to be like 'Well, do I want this $10,000 or do I want a championship?'" Griffin told Complex Sports.
The ultimate goal of any player or team is to win a championship. If that means putting on an Oscar-worthy performance in order to manipulate a referee into making a call he wouldn't otherwise make, so be it. Is flopping cheap and cowardly? Absolutely, but you can make the same case for the Hack-a-Shaq strategy (or its newest incarnation, Hack-a-Dwight).
It's a part of the game. You're dealing with competitive athletes who will do anything to win. A couple thousand dollars in fines isn't going to stop them from doing what they can to win a basketball game. If this rule does anything, it puts more pressure on the refs to get the calls right.
That's a daunting task for people who are charged with reacting in the moment.
In the end, the anti-flopping rule was a nice attempt by the league to show it will no longer turn a blind eye to players' contact hysterics. The problem is the penalties aren't stringent enough for players to take it seriously and, more often than not, the potential outcome of the game will outweigh the need to play by the rules.
The rule won't make a difference in wins or losses. It won't impact the game and it won't dent careers. Players like James aren't going to change how they play and actors like Ginobili are still going to take one for the team. They may be a bit more discreet now, but it won't end a tradition that has been going on for decades.
The league made a nice effort, but the new rule is more newspaper fodder than anything players will be taking seriously any time soon.
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