The NBA, according to ESPN.com, will be instituting some as-yet-undetermined system of fines next season to discourage the practice of flopping.
Don’t expect it to make much difference.
Flopping is currently a player’s best ploy to gain a competitive advantage within the game from the officiating. While it’s certainly not illegal, it’s been roundly criticized, and floppers earn much derision from observers.
And yet, everybody does it.
You know what that reminds me of? A little scandal called Spygate.
Bill Belichick’s camera wizardry has been dubbed shady, despicable, and all sorts of other things, but the NFL’s penalty was ultimately a first-round pick less valuable than the one the New England Patriots acquired from the San Francisco 49ers plus stiff fines for Belichick and the team.
And yet, given that names as big as Jimmy Johnson mentioned that taping was, and perhaps is, widespread, and that the Patriots have been the NFL’s most successful franchise this decade, and that the actions may have contributed more to the team than the penalty did to damage it, it seems that the calculated rule-bending paid off.
That’s not unforgivable; it’s just shrewd.
So long as there are rules, in anything, much less in sports, there will be entities trying to bend or break them.
Take the San Antonio Spurs, probably the most-ridiculed team when it comes to flopping. The Spurs got embroiled in their own rule-bending controversy this season when they traded for Kurt Thomas.
As part of the deal, San Antonio sent Brent Barry to Seattle; Seattle, both because of cap reasons and because they had no need for Barry, waived him; Barry, after clearing waivers, re-signed with the Spurs.
The cries of “Collusion!” followed swiftly. But the Spurs got Barry back, and he’s been a spot shooter for them in these playoffs, though he’ll be remembered for getting 23 points Tuesday night when he needed 25 or 26.
In the meantime, the Dallas Mavericks seemed to have a similar deal worked out with the New Jersey Nets; as part of the Jason Kidd trade, Jerry Stackhouse would go to the Garden State in theory only, get waived, then return to Dallas for the playoff run.
What was the difference between the two situations? Brent Barry, almost certainly coached by the savvy Spurs management, kept his lips zipped; no whispers of a pre-arranged deal meant no deal was planned.
That’s the philosophy these Spurs have: We will do everything in our power to win NBA championships. And it’s worked, four times in the last nine years.
In all probability, flopping, as strategically as the Spurs do, contributed to that run.
Why would simple fines stop that profitable practice?
So Manu Ginobili or Tim Duncan, if named floppers by the team of arena observers and video reviewers, would have to pay the league a few thousand bucks.
I’ll bet the fifth foul that sends Kobe Bryant to the bench late in Game 5 tonight would be more than worth it.
NBA players are too well-compensated for fiscal slaps on the wrist to dissuade them from these actions. And it would merely be beating dead horses to assign fines after the competitive balance of a game was changed by a flop.
So how about a “flop provision” in the rulebook that allows officials, should they deem a flop egregious and false, or replay workers, if they spot clear blown calls based on flops, to hand out technicals to floppers during the course of a game?
It would make chronic flopping suspension-worthy (16 technicals merits a one-game suspension), and put the punishment for blatant in-game offenses at a potential point for the other team.
Perhaps it would sway the minds in the NBA back towards gritty, legal defense that the league should want, and blunt fan enmity for floppers, which doubles as dislike for soccer-style pleading for fouls and disgust with the “European” style of play; the latter, obviously, can’t help the league’s ambitious globalization efforts.
Perhaps it wouldn’t.
But fines would be nothing more than lip service to a problem that screams for attention.