From the Podium

It's no secret that the modern NBA player is a frustrated actor. Flopping in all of its forms continues to spread like wildfire. Everyone seems to be exaggerating the force of contact and taking dives on the floor. Antics like this make me think I'm watching the WWE instead of the NBA. But what can be done about this problem? It's having a negative impact on the game and even fans of the most prominent floppers cannot enjoy seeing the players turn contact into a poker game for the referees.

But the problem of flopping is not as devestating to the game as the symptom: referees being whistle happy. This is the playoffs; there should not be fouls called on every possession. What happened to letting the players go and having games decided by basketball instead bluffing and free throw contests? Way too many fouls are being called away from the ball when players are jockeying for position. That's not contact that should warrant free throws and necessitate a stoppage of play. But because so many players are overselling the contact, the refs continue to blow the whistle.

Flopping has become so rampant because there really is no downside for the defender trying to fake the offensive foul. You don't see players taking dives on offense because they need to be available to get the ball. The defender has nothing to lose and everything to gain. There has to be some recourse. I understand that on a lot of plays there really is contact and the ref needs to make a judgment call. But allowing the defender off the hook is just an encouragement to do it more.

There needs to be recourse for the defender if he is caught flopping. If a guy takes a dive and the ref does not call a foul, he should be penalized. Even if there is a foul but the defender tries to oversell the contact, that should be subject to recourse as well. In soccer when a player does theatro he's slapped with a yellow card. Theatro in the NBA should warrant a technical foul: exploiting the spirit of the rules of the game. That would really discourage players from doing it because two flops in a game means you're out and each flop is a checkmark towards a possible suspension. Obviously there cannot be replay reviews on all contact and the flop has to meet a certain degree of unreasonableness for a ref to hand out a technical, but the ref should be able to do so at his discretion. Sometimes the ref might make the wrong call and give a T incorrectly, but that's better than the current system of constant flopping and over aggressive foul calling.

My point is that recourse against flopping will lead to more good basketball: less fouls and less complaining. I'm not saying the refs should swallow their whistles, but giving them a little more authority to penalize someone for overselling will translate into a stricter standard for what constitutes a foul. Incidental contact can result in a no call because there is no smoking gun. Players won't try to fake their way to victories because it would be a huge gamble as opposed to now when there is nothing to lose. It seems paradoxical that giving refs more power would result in less use of the whistle, but the threat of reprisal would hopefully convince those frustrated actors to stick to their day job of playing basketball.


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