Nobody likes flopping. Opposing players despise it, fans can’t stand it, media members get all haughty and bothered over it, and even the players that flop the most tend to do it sheepishly. It’s not quite the scourge of the NBA, as some of the haughtier types have characterized it, but it is a problem.
It’s mainly a problem because flopping works. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to dupe referees into thinking that you were just hit hard, and “earn” the whistle. And with referees now told to call just about every potential block/charge call, rarely looking the other way as they used to, the whistles are adding up.
Fining players for flopping hasn’t dissuaded players, because the second infraction only nets a $5,000 penalty. This is part of the reason why the NBA’s D-League, starting on Thursday, has decided to nail each of its players with a technical foul should they commit what D-League refs deem to be a flop. From the league’s website:
Application of the new experimental flopping rule will involve NBA D-League officials assessing technical fouls to any player who, in their judgment, has flopped. Officials will be required to confirm all flopping calls on instant replay monitors. The instant replay review will be conducted at the first timeout or quarter break following the flop call, and if confirmed, the technical foul will be assessed at that time. Any flopping calls made in the game’s last two minutes will be reviewed and assessed immediately.
“There isn’t a better place to experiment with NBA rules than in the NBA D-League, and we are pleased to test this experimental rule that, for the first time, creates an in-game penalty for flopping,” said Reed. “The NBA D-League is the research and development laboratory for the NBA and both leagues are always evaluating ways to further the game.”
The league went on to define flopping as committing an action “inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force or direction of the contact,” which seems reasonable.
Again, though, flopping works. Deliberate moves that are “inconsistent” with the contact that preceded it sometimes fools the referees calling the game, and it helps you get the ball back. It’s true that a technical foul and the potential for one point for the other team should act as a deterrent, but sometimes it would still be worth it to a player to flop and put the onus on the referees to spend their short time between periods and timeouts looking at replays.
The D-League experiment could lead to the NBA changing its own rules about flopping, especially if the NBA is able to cobble together an accurate centralized review unit that makes life easier on the referees that absolutely cannot win in a situation like this. In a lot of ways both the evolving game, the players, clearly the fans and the league itself combines to put together an incredibly unfair line of demands for game referees, and it’s not helped when players (as they should, because it helps their team win) deliberately confuse refs by flopping.
It’s a hard game to call, and in the moment and just a few feet away from the action? Things get even tougher. The NBA could help these refs by not demanding that nearly every bit of contact from a potential block or charge call be whistled as such, but the modern league wants its rules to be in black and white, which leaves far less discretion for the NBA’s referees to use.
Which leads to more whistles. And because you can get the ball back after one of those whistles, it leads to more flopping.
Flops that come with a technical foul, in the D-League. And possibly the major league, in years to come.