News broke yesterday out of the NBA referee camp that a new measure to fine players for flopping based on post-game review is expected to be initiated in the upcoming season. In his recent post on the matter, Ken Berger raises some important concerns, among hem:
[T]he new approach — if adopted — could open up a whole new can of worms in a sports environment that clearly does not tolerate officiating incompetence. Suppose LeBron James drives to the basket on the final possession of a playoff game, with the Miami Heat trailing by a point. He misses the shot, but dupes the official into calling a shooting foul by flopping. James sinks both free throws, the Heat win the game and advance to the next round. But what happens when the league fines James $25,000 the next morning for flopping on the play? What the league would be saying, essentially, is that James shouldn’t have been awarded free throws and the Heat shouldn’t have won. Chaos, would ensue, as it often does with these controversies — be it a disputed Hail Mary in the end zone or a superstar call late in an NBA game.
Many trepidations such as this point to what could be a rocky start for the NBA’s first attempt to address what fans have long agonized over as one of the most frustrating problems with today’s game. But even if that is the case, in the larger picture it is difficult not to see this as at least being the first step in the right direction.
For one thing, a longstanding gripe among NBA aficionados (not to mention fans of other sports as well) has been that the league is unresponsive to their concerns. If they do choose to implement anti-flopping measures it will be Exhibit A in the case that fans are actually getting their voices heard and their legitimate complaints addressed. In a largely “You’ll get what we sell you” sports world, this is actually a fairly big deal.
Beyond that, in terms of the quality of the basketball games themselves, this could represent somewhat of a genuine paradigm shift. Granted, it would be naive to imagine that star treatment and other imbalances in officiating will be disappearing anytime soon.
But if the NBA officially recognizes flopping as a problem which needs to be solved, it changes the entire conversation from “Do we need to address flopping?” to “How do we address flopping?” As such, even if the current policy under consideration is ineffective, it will have officially set the new precedent that the NBA needs to do something to reduce flopping in order to improve the quality of basketball being played and the enjoyment of the fans watching the game.
Berger may well be right about the limitations of the measure currently under consideration. But even if that casts a shadow over the effectiveness of the new rule, NBA fans should still welcome the newly born official anti-flopping stance of the NBA.
Unless, perhaps, they’re Spurs or Clippers or Heat fans. In which case, tough cookies.