As the NBA’s unending quest to remedy the flopping craze in the exact worst way continues unabated, while team owners take out their own checkbooks in order to try to end what the league office has created, one of the league’s more colorful fans has taken to the league’s own website to kvetch about a problem he gets to see from just a few feet from the middle of the paint.
James Goldstein has been a noted fixture at NBA games for a half a century, and as he’s grown in prominence his counsel has been sought by fashion-minded players, designers, and fashion columnists alike. Now, in a column for NBA.com, Goldstein takes to task the on-court NBA fixation that is frustrating him most:
Last season, the NBA tried to discourage flopping by fining players. As Commissioner David Stern acknowledged, it didn't work. Therefore, I would propose another approach to stop the flop. The rule should be changed so any time that a defensive player falls flat on his back immediately upon contact from an offensive player, the officials will not call any foul.
This rule will eliminate any motivation for the defensive player to deliberately fall down when contact is made.
Those opposed to my proposal will suggest that this is not fair to the defensive player who can't stop himself from falling on his back after being run over by (say) LeBron James.
My answer is that the defensive player will make every effort to keep his balance so that a foul will be called. And if he staggers before falling, the official will be allowed to call the foul. The offensive player will be afraid to run over the defensive player because the offensive player will be called for a foul so long as the defensive player holds his balance for a split second before falling (or doesn't fall flat on his back).
As I’ve written for years, at several different websites, the real problem with the ubiquity of block/charge calls isn’t the amount of jerk-ball floppers that are ruining the game by taking a dive.
Rather, the problem here is that the league has created an incentive-based system that rewards players for tucking in either underneath an airborne player, or anticipating a spot to stand in as the player drives. Referees call every bit of contact, regardless of whether they whistle a block or a charge. Because players have become smarter defensively, and because they’ve worked in this incentive program for so long, more often than not the contact results in a charge call.
As opposed to actual entertaining things. Like an attempted block, or steal, or actual east/west movement from a defender moving his feet. Or a play that isn’t stopped by a whistle.
You can’t blame players for this, because they’re intelligently gaming the system (while risking their careers along the way as they set up in front of that runaway locomotive). You can’t blame coaches for this, because they’re asking their player to do something defensively that has proven to be far more likely to result in a stop than an attempt at a blocked shot. And you genuinely can’t blame referees for this, because while this block/charge madness absolutely ruins huge chunks of an NBA game at times, all they’re doing is signing off on what the league office has asked them to do.
Which is call damn near everything.
Goldstein’s “rule” is a little convoluted, but his heart is in the right place. And it’s what fans have been asking for endlessly since the introduction of the half-circle near the hoop around this time 16 years ago. You don’t have to call everything. You can let something go. You can disabuse players of the notion – which has now become instinctual – that every bit of contact around the rim will result in a charge call if the defender’s feet are set.
Get it done now, NBA, in a way that doesn’t create silly fines or the continued misapplication based on the misunderstanding of why this has become such a phenomenon. Also, get it done now before a second generation of Derek Fishers start to set up shop right in front of the rim.