It’s a bad time to be a gerund in the NBA. Tanking and flopping are two of the biggest banes of professional basketball’s existence in the eyes of many, though each has its strategic and tactical value. And after commissioner Adam Silver addressed the former — “the system’s not perfect right now” — in his comments at All-Star Weekend, it now seems that flopping is squarely in the sights of league executives.
The result: the NBA plans an experiment in the D-League that might endear those fans and analysts who most loathe flopping.
The NBA Development League will begin assessing technical fouls for in-game flopping, league President Dan Reed announced today. The technical foul penalty for flopping will begin to be implemented in games played on Thursday, Feb. 20, and will continue through the completion of the 2013-14 NBA D-League season.
Things are moving quickly in the Silver Era, but there’s a rationality to the pace. The D-League is a lot of things to the NBA — a training ground, a place to let injured players rehabilitate, a fine product in its own right, an expanding league well on its way to 1:1 affiliation with NBA teams — but it’s nothing if not a laboratory. Franchises can stretch the limits of conventional basketball wisdom, taking nothing but 3s and shots in the paint or experimenting with hybrid defenses and breakneck offensive speed.
And it’s a place for the league to experiment, too, with ways to improve the game. That’s the creed of the Silver Era, which is already abundantly clear. “Why are we doing it this way? Does it make sense? Can we do better?” “The worst reason to do something is because that’s the way it has always been done.” These are the first sound bites and quips to come out of the House of Silver, and they’re manna to those who love the NBA but think it could improve. Stagnation kills, after all.
D-League President Dan Reed shares the sentiment.
“There isn’t a better place to experiment with NBA rules than in the NBA D-League, and we are pleased to test this experimental rule that, for the first time, creates an in-game penalty for flopping,” said Reed. “The NBA D-League is the research and development laboratory for the NBA and both leagues are always evaluating ways to further the game.”
All of the intent in the world is fine and dandy, but the rule amounts to nothing if its implementation is flawed. From the looks of the press release, that won’t be an issue.
Application of the new experimental flopping rule will involve NBA D-League officials assessing technical fouls to any player who, in their judgment, has flopped. Officials will be required to confirm all flopping calls on instant replay monitors. The instant replay review will be conducted at the first timeout or quarter break following the flop call, and if confirmed, the technical foul will be assessed at that time. Any flopping calls made in the game’s last two minutes will be reviewed and assessed immediately.
Assuming that play continues upon the act of the flop, this could be a nice change. In that case, it’s not even about the technical foul, though that’s a nice bonus. If officials are encouraged to seek flops and make note of them for review, that likely means an increase in the number of no-calls, particularly in block/charge situations and the classic Harden-ian drive and head-snap.* That means more unabated drives to the rim when a defender falls down, and fewer less-than-kosher free throws.
It might also mean more free throws in total, at least in the beginning. The hope is that implementation of such a rule will in turn reduce the number of flops committed. Flopping has always been a bit of calculus, estimating the risk of embarrassment and taking yourself out of the play against the reward of a whistle. In the D-League, that cost-benefit analysis is now front and center. Flop and get caught? You’re not just giving up an easy basket — you’re turning it into an and-1 at the next dead ball. Sometimes, it’ll still be worth it. And not all flops are no-calls; some merely accentuate contact.
But D-League players better be sure the next time they take a dive. And NBA players better take note. They might be next.