A Tough Time For NBA Flop Artists

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - June 04, 2008
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It could be the end of the NBA as we know it. Legions of players, after years of practice and effective style of play, will soon be forced by outside influences to change their game and to give advantage to the enemy - all to appease the beast of sound athletic competition.

In no time at all, a long, proud history will soon be regulated to the dust bins of history like short shorts, mid-range jumpers, traveling calls, carries and players able to score with both hands.

What in the name of Bill Laimbeer and Vlade Divac is going on here?

After years of continuously mounting criticism over power forwards hitting the deck following the slightest contact by aggressive point guards, the league has finally decided to leave acting to the professionals - or at least to Will Ferrell.

While an exact plan is yet to be implemented, the basic idea is to channel the NHL and fine players who take a dive in the effort to draw fouls.

Prior to the 2005-2006 season, the NHL instituted Rule 52, which states, “A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who attempts to draw a penalty by his actions (‘diving’). Regardless if a minor penalty for diving is called, Hockey Operations will review game videos and assess fines to players who dive or embellish a fall or a reaction, or who feign injury. The first such incident will result in a warning letter being sent to the player, the second will result in a $1,000 fine, the third in a $2,000 fine and the fourth in a one-game suspension.”

A side bar to the rule says the offending player also could be subject to supplementary discipline by the commissioner, although the chances of this are almost nonexistent.

The NHL’s policy seems pretty cut-and-dried, but its major hindrance - which the NBA would be best served by not adopting - is its policy of not releasing the names of players penalized for the infractions.

Without such clarity, the legitimacy of the rule will come into serious question just as it has in the NHL, where the general belief is that the rule is not being applied equally to all parties (i.e. Sidney Crosby) or that it’s barely used at all.

The action by the NBA is long overdue. What was once a smart way to draw fouls has turned into an overused clumsy ballet that has more in common with choreographed western bar fights then a clever way to put the offense at a disadvantage.

Enforcement of the new code of conduct, however, is going to be challenging.

The inherent problem with the rule is determining what constitutes a violation and what bruises will be necessary to prove the offending player was just the innocent victim in a train wreck.

Of course, every player hit with a fine will swear on all that is holy that he was run over. The players’ union will appeal - something the NHL doesn’t allow - and will be turned down as the person hearing the complaint will be the same one setting down the punishment.

Fans will continue to support their favorite actor as they fill up the message boards and talk radio with accusations of conspiracies and favorable calls toward league stars, while Manu Ginobili will continue to refine his pratfalls as he prepares for soccer’s World Cup.

And that’s not the worst part. The bigger drawback is that fines, no matter how stiff, will not change the result of the play as it happens.

A flop drawing the sixth foul on a key player and sealing a victory for the offending team is a pretty good buy for, say a $2,000 investment, especially for a $10 million-a-year player in search of his first playoff birth. The crime victim is just out of luck. Their season is over and the guilty party remains free to dip his toe into the playoff salary pool and commit further violations.

The difficulties inherent to the new policy do not mean the NBA should ignore the problem as one too subjective to accurately police.

But the league would be ill advised to rush into a decision that would implement a poorly designed rule that would only pacify its critics while putting game officials in the bad position of having their credibility questioned by members of the NBA’s audio/video club.

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