Word came out of the NBA's preseason referee camp today that the league would be cracking down on flopping this season by issuing fines after the fact. Questionable plays will be reviewed, and if a player is deemed to have been flopping on the play the league may issue a fine. There was no specific mention of it, but one presumes that some sort of point system, similar to tracking the number of technical fouls and flagrant fouls a player commits during the season will be involved as well.
My reaction to this news is two-fold: (1) it's a necessary step that is long overdue and (2) it will be incredibly difficult to adjudicate, much more difficult than most people seem to realize.
I've been an advocate of reviewing flops after the fact for some time, having written this almost two years ago:
Bottom line is, as long as [flopping] works, it will continue and it will increase. The way to fix this is for refs to stop being dupes. And even if refs get suckered in real time, issue fines and suspensions after the fact. If you give the players incentive to do it (if it works even just occasionally, and there's no risk because there's no ramifications), then they will do it. Either remove the incentive or increase the risks.
The game moves too quickly, the players are quite good at selling phantom contact, and referees will definitely get fooled in the course of a game. Fines after the fact may or may not prove to be an actual deterrent, but they absolutely should be part of the league's toolkit for trying to combat the problem.
Having said that, I wonder how many of these fines the league and/or the fans expect to see handed out during the season? As the some time defender-in-chief of the team they call "Flop City" I assure you that most flops are in the eye of the beholder. Twitter almost melted down from all the anti-flop venom spewed at Blake Griffin during Game 3 of the Clippers-Grizzlies playoff series last May, but I watched every play and didn't see a single flop, and I can't imagine that a league official sitting at his desk the next day would have seen it any differently.
I think everyone, from the commissioner to the officials to the fans, agrees that some amount of embellishing is an acceptable part of the game. If you have your feet set and take a charge square in the chest you fall backwards because that's what you do, not necessarily because the force of contact requires you to. And that's a charge and it's not a flop, even if it does involve some amount of selling on the contact. So clearly we're in a gray area here, between acceptable embellishment and punishable deception. Reggie Evans' ridiculous pratfall against Greivis Vasquez late last season certainly qualifies as a flop that warrants a fine in my book. Maybe there were one or two others involving Evans in all the Clippers games I watched. And that's about it. And I watched every game the supposed "Flop City" played.
Take the "Flop of the Night" series on ESPN's TrueHoop. I've been through most of the plays that won the coveted nightly Floppy last season, and for the majority I'm not convinced they were flops at all, let alone fine-worthy. And guess what? Most of them didn't even involve Clippers. If I was an employee of the league I sure as heck wouldn't be handing out fines based solely on Beckley Mason's recommendations.
Which of course presents a problem for the league. It remains to be seen of course, but I think we can be fairly certain that there won't be anything close to a fine-per-night -- even though TrueHoop insists that we need to spotlight a Flop of the Night. What happens when the public is asking for flopping punishments under the new rule, and none are forthcoming?
So kudos to the NBA for instituting a system that is overdue. And good luck with that.