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The Anti-Flopping Rule Arrives

The NBA will adopt an anti-flopping rule beginning with the 2012-13 season, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson announced today via press release:

“Flops have no place in our game – they either fool referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into thinking the referees missed a foul call,” Jackson said. “Accordingly, both the Board of Governors and the Competition Committee felt strongly that any player who the league determines, following video review, to have committed a flop should – after a warning – be given an automatic penalty.”

“Flopping” will be defined as any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player. The primary factor in determining whether a player committed a flop is whether his physical reaction to contact with another player is inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force or direction of the contact.

Physical acts that constitute legitimate basketball plays (such as moving to a spot in order to draw an offensive foul) and minor physical reactions to contact will not be treated as flops.

Any player who is determined to have committed a flop during the regular season will be subject to the following:

Violation 1: Warning

Violation 2: $5,000 fine

Violation 3: $10,000 fine

Violation 4: $15,000 fine

Violation 5: $30,000 fine

If a player violates the anti-flopping rule six times or more, he will be subject to discipline that is reasonable under the circumstances, including an increased fine and/or suspension.

The league will announce at a later date a separate set of penalties for flopping that will apply during the playoffs.

What will be interesting is to see how effective the league is at dissuading players from flopping. The reason it has become such a widespread part of the game is precisely because it is so hard for referees to make a distinction between a real foul and a fake one when the game is moving in real time. Granted, the penalties and fines will be announced after the fact and following a video review, but how many times will the NBA have to issue fines before players start to take it seriously? How many times will the NBA be able to say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a flop has been committed?

Sure, there are players like San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili and Phoenix’s Luis Scola who have turned flopping into a standard defensive play. They and others like them will have to adjust their games to reflect the new rule. But there are plenty of players who do it more selectively and more craftily, who will likely create a massive gray area that will be difficult for the NBA to police.