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A Quick Rant on Flopping

Following up on the J.J. Barea flop that led to a heated argument between Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle and Baron Davis, I just wanted to add a quick thought.

Citizen Kid Justin asked if Blake Griffin's "Head Throw Back" move, which we all know has helped him get more whistles (and which he uses a lot, and not always out of necessity) isn't just another example of this type of flopping. And the answer is, yes, of course it is.

And it's a problem. To me, there's a continuum from some acceptable level of exaggeration (for lack of a better term) to total play acting where you are trying to convince the referee that contact occurred that did not in fact occur. And Blake's behavior gets pretty close to the line at times. But as long as refs continue to reward the play acting and players gain an advantage, it's only going to get worse.

Whenever possible, I try to relate things to playing basketball myself. Many years ago when I played in high school, I always led my team in drawn charges. Now, I was really good at establishing position, and I wasn't afraid to take the hit. But when it happened, I became a rag doll and hit the floor really easily. I also added the "backwards butt scoot" - if you give yourself a subtle push as you're hitting the floor, you can cover 10 or 12 feet depending on the coefficients of friction on your uniform shorts and the gym floor. It more or less forces the ref to make a call. I never invented contact that didn't happen, but I certainly didn't resist the contact and I did my best to accentuate it. To me, that's acceptable.

The really disturbing trend is this Barea style thing where players are duping refs into thinking they've taken a punch. Many players have gotten really good at reacting like they've been hit when an opponent gets their arm up anywhere near the face. So on the play in question, Barea crowds Baron, Baron tries to shoo him away like a gnat which is a standard reaction, and Barea snaps his head back and hits the ground as if Baron sucker punched him. The funny thing is that Carlisle was completely taken in by JJ's act also. Carlisle is yelling at Baron about what a dirty play it was, at the same time the camera is showing Barea grinning like an idiot because he knows he faked the whole thing.

Incidentally, perhaps the worst one of these of all time was in the 2007 playoffs when Baron hit the deck in the vicinity of Mehmet Okur literally without being touched.

He should have been kicked out of the game for that one. I don't know how a ref can see that happen, realize that it was a flop, and not punish the player. It's not enough just to ignore it. Another one almost as bad occurred in the WCC championship game about 10 years ago when Dan Dickau did essentially the same thing on a dead ball situation. So this isn't just a diving euro soccer issue, though that certainly contributes to the problem; plenty of American ballers, mostly the ones we call 'smart' and praise for their high basketball IQs, pull this sort of crap. Chris Paul certainly comes to mind.

Bottom line is, as long as it 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.