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Is NBA's Decision to Keep Current Flopping Fines Good Enough?

Dec 28, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin (7) is fouled by San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) during the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 21, 2016

If the NBA wants to eradicate flopping entirely, it's going to have to do much more than fine offenders a paltry $5,000 for each violation. Unfortunately, the same toothless policy that the league put in place before last season won't change for the 2013-14 campaign.

The NBA's Board of Governors adopted five rule changes on July 18, approving recommendations made by the competition committee to expand replay, tweak the current clear-path rules and discourage offensive players from manufacturing space by standing out of bounds (per NBA.com).

But the powers that be didn't make a single change to the league's flopping policies. That's good news for some people.

So, for the second year in a row, offenders will suffer a minimal fine that escalates with subsequent violations. And in the unlikely event that a player accumulates six flopping fines, suspensions come into play. A tweak from the 2013 playoffs that removed the warning for first-time violators will also stay in place.

So at least there won't be any freebies this year.

According to Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated, the league found 24 violations of the flopping policy last year, spread among 19 players. The total fines collected in the entire season amounted to just $60,000.

Reggie Evans made the first-ever donation last year.

To put that in perspective, the average NBA salary is about $5.5 million per year, which means that the total fines levied last season didn't even add up to the $67,000 that the average player makes in a single NBA game.

NBA commissioner David Stern made some critical comments about the league's flopping policies before Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals:

It isn’t enough. It isn’t enough. You’re not going to cause somebody to stop [flopping] for $5,000 when the average player’s salary is $5.5 million. And anyone that thought that was going to happen was allowing hope to prevail over reason.

In other words, get ready to see plenty more of this:

And this:

There are some decent arguments for keeping the current policy in place, though.

For starters, the NBA will now be able to measure statistics from this upcoming season against the ones from last year. That kind of season-over-season comparison will give the league an idea of whether or not the flopping policies are working. If there are more violations and more fines in 2013-14 than there were in 2012-13, the NBA will have legitimate evidence that rules are in need of tweaking.

It's always easier to measure progress when there's a baseline.

One might also assume that the shame attached to being labeled a "flopper" would deter players from continuing the practice. With a full season under the new policy, the 19 guys who violated the rule last year might be a little embarrassed.

Not so, says Shane Battier, who gave the following thoughts to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN:

If they want to put an opera of all my charges or flops on there, go for it. But if you take $10 from me, I’m going to be upset. No one cares [about being labeled a 'flopper']. In our society now, labels don’t matter. Labels change every 10 minutes. But money? It hurts. I hate to sound like a capitalist, but that’s much more effective than public humiliation.

Battier may be right about players' lack of concern for their reputations, but the cerebral forward probably isn't as focused on his "brand" as many of his peers are. There's still a good case to be made that most of the league's ego-driven stars don't want to deal with the stigma of being tagged as a flopper.

Between Stern and Battier's comments, though, it seems abundantly clear that $5,000 isn't enough to get players' attention. Battier can talk all he wants about wanting to avoid losing money to the league, but the fact is, he flopped with the best of them all season long.

Part of the reluctance to change or increase penalties probably also has to do with how naturally subjective flopping calls are. Even upon review, it's sometimes hard to definitively rule that an accused flopper exaggerated contact.

Because of that inherent subjectivity, if the penalties were harsher, a particularly controversial ruling could result in a grievance from the players' union. 

But nobody's going to quibble over a measly five grand.

The NBA is taking a patient approach to its flopping issue, which indicates that the league doesn't view it as a significant problem. If the fines were bigger or suspensions were more readily administered, it seems obvious that flopping would decrease dramatically.

For now, the league seems satisfied. But in the long run, it's going to have to do more.

 

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