ST. FRANCIS, Wis. – In theory, eradicating any sort of trickery or skullduggery from NBA games should qualify as a good thing. Keeping it genuine is just another form of keeping it real. So if the league’s new anti-flopping rule wrings out the chicanery of defenders seeking phony charging fouls and turnovers by pretending to absorb bogus contact, the product as competition and entertainment will be better for it, right?
Not so fast. There is the little matter of unintended consequences, which came up during a visit to the Milwaukee Bucks’ training camp Thursday.
Veteran forward Drew Gooden doesn’t like the rule, which is being added for 2012-13 to discourage players from flopping, a tactic the NBA says is intended to “either fool referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into thinking the referees missed a foul call.” That’s how Stu Jackson, NBA executive vice president of baskeball operations put it when announcing the rule and the ladders of penalties – a warning for the first violation, a $30,000 fine for the fifth, with undetermined punishment for a half dozen or more.
But Gooden pointed out what he saw as a couple of flaws in the rule.
“I think the guys who are going to be in trouble are the guys who lead the league in [taking legit] charges,” Gooden said after Milwaukee’s morning workout. “Ersan [Ilyasova] had a play yesterday where Ekpe [Udoh] was about to take a real hard power-dribble and he anticipated it. He stood on his heels, he took contact and it was like a no-call. Is that a warning? Is that a violation? That’s gonna be the question.”
Gooden then demonstrated a classic flop, hurling backward at the slightest touch of contact. “If I just go like this, like Anderson Varejao,” he said, “different story. … You see a guy take one dribble in the post and a guy acts like he just got blown up.”
Here’s another consequence: Instead of trying to fool referees, this system of day-after penalties will confirm that last night’s refs actually did get snookered.
Gooden added: “The refs should be fined if they call a flop as an offensive foul, how ’bout that? If they get fooled, they should get fined or they should get a warning.”
As a 10-year veteran, Gooden has seen a long list of new rules and “points of emphasis” added. Typically, the learning curve in the preseason is steep. Players and coaches adjust to changes in interpretations, but preseason games can be whistle-crazy affairs while they do.
“I think we’re making too many rules each year,” Gooden said. “It seems like the last five years, it’s been a new rule every year. Technical fouls are up. Hand gestures to the ref. It’s taking away from the game.”
Gooden – who said he supports the National Basketball Players Association’s plan to file a grievance contesting the rule and fine schedule – happens to play for a team that values the sort of feisty defense that can lead to legit charges drawn. Under coach Scott Skiles, Gooden, Ilyasova, Mike Dunleavy, Luc Mbah a Moute and former Bucks center Andrew Bogut frequently have wound up on their backs after beating a man to his spot and taking the hit.
Skiles wasn’t interested in discussing the rule and its ramifications. “It doesn’t really matter what I think,” he said.
But isn’t it needed, some method to get the phony flops out of the game? Said the Bucks coach: “No.”