League announces fines of up to $30K for flopping. As if that will work.

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The league hates flopping. They say it’s the integrity of the game, I think it’s more an image thing — David Stern read columnists last playoffs comparing the NBA to soccer, he saw his young up-and-coming Clippers called “flop city.” He knew something needed to be done.

Players say they hate it, too, but plenty of them do it because it could draw a foul and lead to a competitive advantage. They play to win. Plus there were no penalties in place.

There are now, the league announced its new flopping policy on Wednesday. And they gave it some teeth. Well, really dentures, these aren’t terribly sharp teeth. What the league is hoping for is a deterrent — players don’t want to be called out publicly and fined for flopping. Especially more than once.

While referees can still call flopping, that is very difficult at full game speed. So the league will review potential flops at the league office and issue penalties:

First offense in a season gets you a warning. Second time it is a $5,000 fine. Third time it is $10,000, fourth time $15,000 and if there is a fifth offense in a season the fine is $30,000. Go beyond that and the league has the option to give larger fines or issue suspensions. (This applies only to the regular season, different playoff flopping rules will come later.)

That’s not that much, but it’s not the biggest problem the league will face.

The challenge for the league will be making clear calls. There are some clear flops out there, but a lot of what fans see as the opponent flopping is something that started with contact and the question is whether the player exaggerated the impact. It’s not clean and simple.

Here is how the league is defining it, from their press release:

“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.

There are people who will say the fines are not stiff enough, that players will still do it if they think they can get an advantage. Which is true. Guys are going to do it and keep selling calls in hopes of getting a future whistle. But hand-in-hand with it will be controversy this year about what the league rules as a flop and what it doesn’t.

This issue is far from resolved. Flopping is still going to be all over the NBA. But, there is now a starting place to curbing the practice. As much as it can be.