The NBA has a flopping epidemic on its hands, and in search of an antidote, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported on Thursday that the competition committee is "discussing [the] potential of in-game [penalties] for flops that would result in [a] technical foul free throw" and that "trial is possible at Summer League in July."
If this were to come to fruition, it would be an unquestionably good thing. But would it be the best thing? I would argue no. Look, I'm all for anything to legislate even a modicum of the flopping out of the game, and we've seen the technical free throw serve as a major deterrent in the fight against "take" fouls, which were also destroying the entertainment value of the league and have, for the most part, gone away.
But as long as we're talking about the entertainment value, or, put another way, the aesthetic appeal of the game, which is everything to this business model, do we really need another reason to stop the games and go to the review monitor?
If flopping is a problem, then so, too, are the constant play stoppages of a typical NBA game. A million free throws. A thousand timeouts. Reviews for flagrants and challenges and take and clear-path fouls. We need to be finding ways to keep the action going, not more ways to stall it. Through that prism, I would argue there is a much more effective deterrent to flopping than a technical foul that is going to require reviews.
Just don't call the foul.
It's that simple.
There have been suggestions on Twitter to police flopping after the fact. Go back and look at the tape and assess fines and potential suspensions accordingly. I don't agree with that on its own. You're going to have to throw out some seriously lofty fines out there to get the attention of a guy making tens of millions a season. But I would be all for adding potential fines and suspensions to a plan that begins, first and foremost, with erring on the side of ignoring flops on the court in real time.
Let's see how long these guys keep flailing to the ground like they just stepped on a grenade if the whistle doesn't blow and the game keeps going without them. Let's see how stupid they look, and feel, when their teammates are having to cover for them because they're laying on the floor.
Most importantly, let's see how long guys keep flopping when it actually works against them getting the foul call they're seeking. This is the key. Even if there is legitimate contact, flopping overrules the foul. Sorry. No call. Now you're screwing with guys' stats. You want to see a player adjust his game, start messing with his numbers when he actually should've been going the free throw line had he only played it halfway honestly.
Players, of course, would tell you they have to flop, because if they don't then officials don't call what are legitimate fouls. That's fair. Officials have to be better. And it wouldn't be easy, in some cases, to gauge in the heat of the moment when a guy going to the ground is real and when it's theatrical.
But I'll say this: Most times flopping is obvious. And when it's not, the key is to err on the side of a no-call. If you go to the ground, if you snap your head back like you took a jab to the face, the evidence of a foul has to be overwhelming to get the call. If it's questionable at all, you don't get the whistle.
The clip below is the exact play I'm talking about. Make sure your volume is up so you can listen to the discussion between Jeff Van Gundy, who thinks it was a flop by LeBron James, and Mark Jackson, who thinks it was a legitimate foul.
In this instance, both guys are right. It was a foul, and LeBron did flop. What I'm saying is the flop needs to cancel out the foul. This way, when you flop, the only person you're hurting is yourself. There is no question this would stop the flopping, and it would do so without having to stop the game. It would require officials to adjust their embarrassingly reactive and gullible wiring, and that would take some time. But, as they say, nothing worth doing is easy. And this is definitely worth doing.