The playoffs are a time of tradition, with various players and teams building their legacies, matching the greatest accomplishments of legends of days past, and generally engaging in games of great import. It feels like we basketball fans have the same discussions and arguments every postseason. It's comfortable, in its way, if also a bit enervating and same-y.
Our newest tradition is arguing about flopping. Every spring, as the games become more important and each call has a greater effect on a team's fortunes, fans reacts more strongly to and take greater notice of every attempt by a player to sell or fabricate a call wholesale. While the league has taken steps to call out floppers with fines, many fans don't think enough is being done. What's the NBA to do?
According to Miami Heat forward and charge-taker extraordinaire Shane Battier, they're doing just the right thing. Despite the fact that the first fine for flopping is only $5,000, Battier believes the threat of lost money is the greatest deterrent to stop the practice. From Royce Young for Eye on Basketball:
The feeling is, though, that LeBron and others might be less likely to flop because of the shame that comes with it. There were a lot of grumbles that LeBron was a flopper, but now that he has been fined, he's officially labeled one. LeBron James is a flopper. He has the scarlet "F" on his chest now, something the league's MVP probably shouldn't have.
But Shane Battier on Thursday said the shame of being labeled doesn't matter. The best and only way to curb this issue, he said, is to hit players in their pockets.
"Money. Money is always the [thing]," Battier said. "People say public scorn, the humilation. Guys could care less if they're publicly humiliated." [...]
"If they want to put an opera of all my charges on there or flops or whatever, go for it. You take $10 from me, and I'm upset," Battier said. "Money." [...]
More Battier: "No one cares. In our society now, labels don't matter. They change every 10 minutes, so who cares? But money -- that hurts. I hate to sound like a capitalist, but that's much more effective than public humiliation."
Battier's comments are a little counterintuitive, because the assumption has been that being named as a flopper will cause players to feel great shame and change their ways simply for what it does to their reputations. However, the league's most notorious floppers — a list including but not limited to Battier, Manu Ginobili, and Blake Griffin — are often very popular and well-regarded players. Being labeled as floppers clearly hasn't affected their ability to get positive attention, even if fans dislike the practice as it happens. People only feel shame if they allow themselves to. (It seems likely that Battier would take more offense to being called a dirty player by several Indiana Pacers.)
In other words, players seem to consider flopping to be an effective way to win games, to the point where LeBron James can say it's "not even a bad thing" without fearing serious repercussions. Labeling someone as a flopper doesn't make a difference because players are already willing to label themselves as such. They have no shame.
So, as Battier says, the solution is to take away things that players really do want. While the $5,000 fines handed out to three players on Thursday are unlikely to matter too much to them, steeper fines with more regular suspensions would make a difference. If flopping is an accepted practice among NBA brethren and fans ultimately don't ostracize a player for doing so, then a diminished image matters much less than material loss.
Ultimately, the question is if the NBA cares enough about flopping to issue more frequent and bigger fines (effectively, to draw more attention to it) and/or suspend high-profile players. All indications are that the league doesn't want to do these things if it risks having stars miss important games. They want to look like they're responding to the complaints about flopping, but they don't want to do what's necessary to stamp it out entirely. As much as the public seems to dislike flopping, it's possible that this is the best way to handle things. Sometimes a crisis isn't as intolerable as its apparent solution.