Why New NBA Flopping Rules Will Not Change How Game Is Played

Zach HarperContributor IIIOctober 10, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 23: Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics discusses a call with referee Joe Crawford #17 during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on May 23, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

After many years of scrutiny, howls by NBA fans and a couple of years of the media drawing serious attention to the flopping tactics that nearly every player in the league employs (yes, even you, DeSagana Diop), the league is finally starting a system to crack down on the "infractions."

For the 2012-13 NBA season, players will now have to think twice about flopping (via NBA.com):

A "flop" is an attempt to either fool referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into thinking the referees missed a foul call by exaggerating the effect of contact with an opposing player. 

The main factor in determining whether a player committed a flop is whether his physical reaction to contact with another player is inconsistent with what would have been expected given the force or direction of the contact. For example, a player will be considered to have committed a “flop" if he falls to the floor following minimal contact or lunges in a direction different from the direction of the contact. 

The determination of whether a player has violated the flopping rule will be made by the League following video review of the play. (Game officials will not make determinations about flopping during games.) 

Looking at this explanation from the league office, you can already see the can of worms opening up with the new flopping regulations.

What exactly is this new policy supposed to accomplish? I keep looking at the last line of the quoted excerpt that’s nestled between the parentheses, and it makes me think this won’t have much of an effect on how teams conduct themselves on the court at all.


Game Officials Will Not Make Determinations About Flopping During Games.

Let’s do a little exercise here. Watch the video of examples of what will and won’t be determined a flop by league review after games.

The NBA highlights seven would-be flops in this package, followed by four plays that definitely aren’t going to be classified as flops should they occur. While I appreciate them taking the time to thoroughly create a video to give fans and media members a better idea of what will be considered a flop next season, it’s kind of avoiding the actual issue at hand.

Of the first seven plays shown to us, three were called fouls. Reggie Evans, Tony Parker and Josh Smith all got away with fabricating foul calls through theatrics. I’m not the type of person who harps on officials because I believe their jobs can be nearly impossible sometimes, but shouldn’t the calls on the court be tightened up and not just corrected later on?

Whether there are some bad officials or the rules are too ambiguous to provide consistent calls or a combination of the two, the league should be making more of a transparent effort to correct the probability of a flop being called incorrectly, rather than threatening monetary fines at a later date to be determined.

Here are the penalties for the designated floppers:

The first time a player is determined to have committed a flop, he will be warned by the NBA. Thereafter, the following automatic penalties will apply: 
Violation 2: $5,000 fine 
Violation 3: $10,000 fine 
Violation 4: $15,000 fine 
Violation 5: $30,000 fine 

For a sixth (or any subsequent) violation of the rule, the player will be subject to such discipline as the League determines is reasonable under the circumstances, including an increased fine and/or suspension. 

Granted, this can be a lot of money to give up, even for millionaire players, but instead of creating a system that deters players from creating these situations, all the NBA has done is put a price tag on what could potentially be a key decision at some point during the game.

Is Dwyane Wade destroying the Celtics in a game in February that Boston really needs to win? You’ve now allowed Paul Pierce to know that it’s going to be just $10,000 for him to flop to pick up Wade’s fourth foul early in the third quarter to get him out of the game. If the Celtics end up winning that game because they could shift momentum with a flop, isn’t that going to be worth the money for a competitor like Pierce?

Is a warning from the league office going to stop anybody from taking a dive at the end of a game if they haven’t been pegged for flopping yet? Will players even think twice about flopping if they know they can’t get punished for it in real time?

I watched that video from the league 10 times, and I doubt the penalties will have any affect on how the game is played unless they are harsher in the playoffs.

Is this potential fine going to keep Evans from taking a dive on a little extra contact when he sets a screen? Is Parker going to stop trying to draw fouls on Serge Ibaka because he might be fined less than one percent of his salary this year?

I appreciate the fact that the league is starting to take the epidemic of flopping seriously, but a small step in the right direction does not equal a solution for the problem at hand.

It is still a smart strategic move to flop when trying to take a charge or when being bumped on a drive to the basket. There still isn’t a proper reprimand for trying to trick the officials.

And how egregious does flopping have to be before the league decides to punish someone with a one-game suspension? Will they ever punish Chris Paul or Kevin Martin or Paul Pierce or Blake Griffin or LeBron James with that suspension if they get to six or more flops?

Will the NBA only look into punishing floppers from nationally televised games, or will they treat every local broadcast like when Jeff Van Gundy is questioning the integrity of the flopping world on a random Tuesday night in March?

I keep trying to come up with some way this new policy can change the way the game is played, but there really isn’t a legitimate answer or theory. Yes, flopping could lighten your wallet quite a bit if you’re a player, but if you’re winning games you won’t care. And if you’re contributing to a winning team, chances are you’re going to be rewarded with a nicer contract in the future.

There is a way to curb flopping in the NBA, but the new flopping policy for this season is going to let business as usual remain quite usual.