NBA Flopping: Problem Solved?
“Flopping” will be defined as any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player. The primary factor in determining whether a player committed a flop is whether his physical reaction to contact with another player is inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force or direction of the contact. -- NBA news release
So, what does this actually mean? It was a reactionary move, no doubt. Flopping has become a rampant epidemic, and, it is far from slowing down. It’s proliferation points to its viability as a tactic in today’s NBA landscape.
And, contrary to conventional wisdom, flopping is a universal weapon not merely confined to Euroleague imports. John Lucas III, who recently signed with the Toronto Raptors, had his spin on flopping. “I think everybody flops in the league,” Lucas said. “Somebody grab my jersey, I'll sell it like they grabbed my spine out of my body."
Hall of Fame-bound Reggie Miller built his legacy on timely heroics, a pure shooting stroke, and an ability to initiate contact when there wasn’t any. Chris Paul simply astounds with his grace, both in the art of passing and his surprising propensity to exaggerate. Even the freight train that is LeBron James flails on many occasions to get to the charity stripe.
The likes of Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola are convenient scapegoats; the former injects Argentine flair to each stumble, the latter leveraging on his disheveled mop to great dramatic effect. Make no mistake: everybody in the NBA flops.
Talking heads talk, and none is more prominent than former New York Knicks coach and current commentator Jeff Van Gundy. His unrelenting ‘Flop of the Night’ proclamations during game broadcasts have drilled flopping into the NBA mainstream consciousness. What was once esoteric and reserved for the geekiest of NBA fans is now commonplace and spouted by both casual and die-hard.
The league had to do something, and they did exactly that. The NBA was playing catch up, announcing to the media and fans that they knew a change had to be made. But no amount of PR framing from the league can hide that it is not a rule change. It is knee-jerk posturing to make the league look less foolish.
Drawing an offensive foul is a legitimate means of defense. The defender squares up their body, faces the oncoming player, sets his feet outside the restricted area, and braces for impact.
Up until this point, the mechanics and preparation for a flop and a charge are identical. It is only upon contact where it differs. On a flop, the defender searches for contact instead of reacting to it. It is basketball’s proverbial grey area.
Flopping will continue to persist, in spite of the league’s renewed emphasis on clamping it down. It is so loosely and subjectively defined, and so similar to a charge, that it makes it difficult to truly remove from the sport. It straddles the fine line between savvy legitimacy and outright cheating.
It is difficult to enforce and, unsurprisingly, the league-wide reaction by players and coaches is rife with skepticism and ambivalence.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra believes the move to be a step in the right direction, but not necessarily a significant one. "I'm all on board for it. I think it needs to be addressed. It remains to be seen if it truly has an impact,” he said.
Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry was more optimistic, adding: "I think that it's going to be something that's going to be very difficult to enforce. I don't know how it can be done, but I'm sure they'll find a way."
Newly acquired Phoenix Suns power forward, Luis Scola, did his reputation no favors with his reaction to the rule change. "It's a good weapon defensively for me and it has been very productive in order for me to be good on defense,” he said, “I will try to see if I can continue to do it and then if the rules don't allow it, I will find some other way."
There will be a break-in period. Referees will confuse each other, players will be incensed at non-calls, but both will have to adapt. Then hopefully, the flop will retain its rightful place, as a non-issue.
Reach Staff Writer Andrew Seah via email.