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NBA weighs retroactive penalties for floppers

NBA officials believe too many players are deceiving referees into calling fouls. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

MIAMI: David Stern is determined to stop the floppers, even if it takes until the next morning. The NBA commissioner believes too many players are deceiving referees into calling fouls by falling down, or flopping. So he and the league’s newly reformed competition committee met Monday for a discussion about how it can be prevented.

One option, Stern said, is a “postgame analysis” in which a player could be penalized if it was determined he flopped. The league retroactively upgrades or downgrades flagrant fouls after review, and along those lines he said that perhaps a player could receive a message from New York saying: “Greetings from the league office. You have been assigned flopper status.”

“No, I’m joking, but something like that,” Stern said. “That sort of lets people know that it’s not enough to say ‘it’s all part of the game.’”

The committee is made up of coaches Doc Rivers of Boston, Rick Carlisle of Dallas and Lionel Hollins of Memphis; owners Dan Gilbert of Cleveland and Joe Lacob of Golden State, and general managers Bryan Colangelo of Toronto, Sam Presti of Oklahoma City, Mitch Kupchak of the Lakers and Kevin O’Connor of Utah.

They also discussed expanding instant replay for flagrant fouls and goaltending, decided the lottery system is the best one currently available, and seemed to favor leaving the away from the ball foul rule as is, so coaches could continue to intentionally foul notoriously bad free throw shooters.

Any rules changes they recommend would have to be approved by the league’s Board of Governors, set for its next meeting in July.

Stern hopes by then to have a policy to address flopping, which bothers him because he feels it tricks the referees. He said there’s a “broad array of issues” to look at that can let players know the practice is to be discouraged.

“If you continue to do this, you may you have to suffer some consequences,” he said. “What those exactly should be and what the progression is is to be decided, because ... we just want to put a stake in the ground that says this is not something that we want to be part of our game, without coming down with a sledgehammer but just doing it in a minimalist way to begin stamping it out. And I think there are ways we can do that and we’ll have to wait and see exactly what we come up with.”

Stern has talked of allowing replay on all flagrants. Referees currently can only look at the more severe flagrant-2 penalties to determine if they indeed warranted ejection or should be downgraded to flagrant-1s. He has said he is intrigued by the international goaltending rules, which allow a defensive player to knock the ball off the rim.

He’s neutral when it comes to the away from the ball fouls, which led to Hack-a-Shaq and which the Thunder used while intentionally fouling San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter in the Western Conference finals. On one hand, he feels bad for the player who is being embarrassed by his poor free throw shooting; on the other, he understands that maybe coaches should then take the player out.

The committee appears to be leaning toward the status quo.

“It’s fair to say there was a strong sense that we shouldn’t cut down on the toolbox that coaches have available to them, despite what may seem the unseemliness of the way it goes down,” Stern said. “But that’s just one of the things that you do if you want to win and it works.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 20, 2012, on page 14.

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