Dirk Nowitzki pretends not to notice the referee behind him (Danny Bollinger/ Getty).
With only two games (at most) left in the NBA season, basketball fans everywhere have ramped up the intensity of their cries against flopping. These are the most important games on the league's schedule, and any attempt to gain favor by nefarious subterfuge is seen as a crime against the sport. There have been several suggestions on how to stop it, from increasing the severity of penalties to handing out technical fouls or other forms of punishment on the court. No matter the proposed fix, it's a common belief that something must be done.
At least one high-profile player does not believe flopping is such a glaring issue. According to Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA can never get rid of flopping entirely, because it has a place in the game. From Eddie Sefko for The Dallas Morning News (via PBT):
“We’re never going to get rid of it,” he said recently. “But you got to limit it. It’s part of sports. It’s part of winning. Some people are smart and do a little extra thing to kind of sell the call. To me, that’s part of sports.
“You don’t want the obvious ones, the really, really bad ones. I think we’d love to get rid of those.
“But if somebody really does get shoved or hit a little bit, just to sell it a little for the referees so it does get the call, I don’t have a problem with that. I think that’s part of the game.”
In other words, Nowitzki is happy to help the referees see what maybe their eyes may have missed in the course of action on the court.
There's a fairly clear way to take Nowitzki's comments negatively, to assume that he's not serious about the flopping epidemic and wants a place in the game to trick referees into giving him foul calls. Yet it's also possible to see Dirk's response as a more serious effort to treat flopping as a measurable phenomenon rather than a nebulous threat to the integrity of the league. Instead of lumping all exaggerations of contact into the same category, Dirk notes that players do sometimes flop out of necessity, because referees wouldn't blow their whistles for fouls otherwise. It's an embellishment, but it serves to highlight something that exists.
If flopping is a problem, then it's fair to consider not only how it can be stopped, but if various proposed solutions diminish the problem or just perpetuate the same issues and root causes. By defining flopping as any attempt to embellish contact, rather than something more obvious like wholesale invention of contact where none exists, the NBA has ensured that the only way it can stop the problem is by calling out everything. Because the league doesn't want to suspend seven players per game, it hasn't enforced things so glaringly. This selective enforcement has created a system in which fans have reason to complain because they're told that these actions are problems. While certain players have been marked out as floppers, the new rules have mostly served to create the impression that the NBA isn't serious about stopping flopping.
In other words, the current terms of the War on Flopping dictate that it will never end. Nowitzki's take, while potentially a half-measure, at least attempts to define the problem in ways that can lead to improvement. As is, the NBA is really just giving fans more reasons to let their distaste for flopping obscure the quality basketball on the court.
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