Finally, a crackdown on floppers

BY Sam Gardner • September 28, 2012

A message to Anderson Varejao, Manu Ginobili, Paul Pierce, Luis Scola and others like you around the NBA: Your flopping is out of control.

Your flailing and falling and rolling on the floor at the slightest contact — or sometimes no contact at all —all for the sake of a couple of free throws or a cheap turnover is a disgrace to the game of basketball.

Flopping is a bush-league tactic once reserved for only the most desperate and shameless among you and your NBA brethren. But now it’s become a strategy that’s exercised by players first-class and second-rate alike, and it’s become rampant around the league.

Fortunately, commissioner David Stern is onto your deceptive game, and he’s not happy about what he sees. He recognizes that unchecked flopping is damaging the reputation of the game and his league, and now, in a move that’s long overdue, he’s going to do something to try to stop it.

The NBA announced Friday that it is finalizing procedures to handle flopping and the conning of referees, and now, when players dive to the ground or thrash about without adequate cause, it’ll hit them where it hurts most: the wallet.

In much the same way that it already reviews flagrant and technical fouls, the league will now analyze other questionable fouls committed over the course of its games, and players who are found to have intentionally embellished contact will be smacked with an as-yet-undetermined fine.

As it stood before, the only penalty for exaggerating a reaction to contact was not getting the desired foul call, but as players start to find that their fraudulent behavior will impact their bottom line, they may find that their willingness to take one for the team isn’t worth the cost.

Now, there is certainly the possibility of flaws in the NBA’s plan, the specific details of which have yet to be unveiled by the competition committee.

It remains to be seen exactly how the league will determine whether a “flop” occurred. It’s one thing for Glen Davis to react to a Mario Chalmers charge like he got hit by a Mack truck, and it’s something different altogether for Chris Bosh to crumple to the ground after a Carlos Boozer elbow that never happened.

Those in charge have to determine where the line will be drawn and how austere they’re going to be — as far as I’m concerned, the stricter the better — and they need to be consistent about the way they levy these fines. Players and coaches need to know exactly what will and won’t be tolerated, and the less the league lets slide, the more the game as a whole will benefit.

The NBA also needs to make sure the fines are substantial enough to dissuade players from flopping in the first place.

Just like a $5 ticket wouldn’t stop me from driving 80 in a 65, a $1,000 fine isn’t going to stop Kobe Bryant — he of the $28 million salary — from falling down in a heap if it could help his team with a game on the line. Especially not if it’s an important game.

Figure out the value players put on a foul, and make the fines 10 percent higher than that. And consider making the financial hit higher in the postseason — because if you think $5,000 or $10,000 or even $25,000 is going to stop LeBron from fooling a ref with a playoff game on the line, you’re sadly mistaken.

Obviously, the NBA won’t be able to make everyone happy, regardless of what it decides to do.

If the fines are too high, it won’t be fair to the players earning minimum salaries. If they’re too low, it won’t stop the majority of the league from doing the thing that’s causing so much trouble in the first place.

If the league is too picky about what it considers a flop, the one-time victims of the league’s flopping outbreak will start to take advantage of lax defense. If it’s not stringent enough, the new rules won’t have the desired effect on the game.

But whatever the NBA ultimately decides to do will be better than what it was doing before — which is nothing. Flopping has become an epidemic. It makes the game unwatchable at times. And even if it can’t be stopped, it must at least be curbed.

The new rules may not stop flopping altogether, but they should at least slow it down. And the closer the league and its players can get to playing basketball the way it's meant to be played, the better.

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