To much fanfare, the NBA unveiled a new anti-flopping program last October. Finally, through a video review process that would assess warnings, fines and, in extreme circumstances, even suspensions, fakers and exaggerators would be held accountable for misleading the officials.
Nearly six months later, we're left to grapple with two contrasting sentiments: Flopping seems to be down, but the anti-flopping program hasn't been nearly as visible or punitive as observers might have expected.
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First, the numbers: Through Monday, the NBA had assigned 24 flopping violations to 19 different players on 13 different teams. Five players have received two infractions each, earning fines totaling $25,000 among them, with zero players getting dinged three or more times. In other words, the sum total of the program is roughly equivalent to a single game check for a player making $2.5 million, and there was no impact whatsoever on anyone's availability. Was this all just a waste of time?
The flop-master in chief, NBA vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson, recently defended the program, despite its relative lack of warnings and fines. He argued that the policy was having the intended impact through a quiet deterrence.
"[The policy] had an effect and served noticed to the players and the teams that this is something we're going to be looking at very closely," Jackson told USA Today Sports in March. "It put everyone on notice again that we were actually looking at these flops and making some decisions. ... It's the scarlet letter syndrome. Most players don't want to be known or called out for having flopped."
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With that scarlet letter concept in mind, let's hand out The Floppies -- flopping-centric year-end awards and a countdown the top 10 flops of the season.
Floppers of the year (team): Nets. Brooklyn holds two important distinctions: It is the only franchise to have three players warned for flopping (Reggie Evans, Gerald Wallace and C.J. Watson) and two players fined for a second warning (Evans and Wallace). Honorable mention goes to the Clippers, who had two players warned (Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups) -- and many (including Jeff Van Gundy) would argue deserved a third; the Rockets, who had one player warned twice (Omer Asik) and another warned once (Patrick Patterson, now with the Kings); and the Timberwolves, who also had one player warned twice (J.J. Barea) and another warned once (Ricky Rubio).
Flopper of the year (individual): Kevin Martin, Thunder. As noted, five players have been warned twice this season: Asik, Barea, Evans, Wallace and Martin. Of that quintet, none sold his phantom calls quite like Martin, who twice hit the deck in outlandish fashion while following through on jumpers. Both of his infractions made The Point Forward's top 10 flops below, the only player to place twice on this list.
Flop of the year (individual): Chris Paul, Clippers. Explanation below.
Without further ado, here are The Point Forward's top 10 flops of 2012-13. Only officially designated flops were eligible for consideration. The absurdity of each play was the chief criterion in developing these rankings.
Ivey proves that a little creativity is more important than a recognizable name when it comes to elite flopping. As he backpedals to defend Jerryd Bayless, Ivey feels two hands in the back from Arthur and seizes the opportunity to attempt to draw an illegal screen foul by hurtling forward, flailing both arms and letting his body go limp as he crashed to the ground. Replays showed incidental contact.
"Crash" Wallace was warned twice this season and he picked good targets: Carmelo Anthony and James. Defending those guys one-on-one will require every trick in the book. Here, Wallace took a little grazing off-arm action from the reigning MVP and hit the eject button, turning his body almost parallel to the court as he tried to sell an offensive-foul call. Wallace has suffered through countless concussions and a punctured lung during his career, proving that the toughest of tough guys can be fibbers, too.
If the "Reggie Miller Rule" tag applies to an offensive foul for leg-kicking while shooting, then surely we can launch the "Kevin Martin Rule" offshoot, which applies to flops earned by crashing to the court during the shooting motion. Nobody executes this better, more violently or more shamelessly than Martin. Both of his flop warnings this year came on this type of play. Here, Martin goes horizontal right in front of Pistons coach Lawrence Frank and his bench, flailing his arms, kicking his leg up in the air during the follow-through and, of course, earning three free throws on the light touch from Jerebko.
This is a classic. The NBA deserves kudos for calling this one out because it surely could have flown under the radar given that it occurred during a mid-December game between the Hawks and Wizards in front of an estimated 478 fans. Anyway, Seraphin goes to the swinging elbows to finish off a defensive rebound and Pachulia reaches in for a harassing steal attempt before nearly doubling over backward while simulating an elbow to the face. Replays show that Seraphin's elbow got nothing but air, which made Pachulia's staggering reaction, including a reach for his nose, that much funnier. Phew, no blood! Props to the referees for not taking the bait.
Evans, the league's most notorious flopper, was dinged twice this season: for jolting his head backward during a rebounding situation against the Celtics and for this dandy, which occurred, believe it or not, at midcourt. Why did the rugged rebound specialist nearly dribble from the baseline to the half-court stripe? Nobody is quite sure, but we can all agree what happened next was chuckle-worthy. Moments after passing the ball, Evans absorbed slight contact to his left side from World Peace that caused him to run off-kilter, throw both arms in the air and bob his head. That halfhearted, half-loony action earned a foul call on World Peace and a classic "That's a flop!" lip read shot from Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni.
This wasn't the funniest or the most egregious flop of the year, but it was surely the most successful. With his Clippers trailing by two with just over a minute remaining in Utah, Billups lined up a three-pointer from the right angle. The shot was off, but Williams flew by him to contest it, prompting Billups to allow himself to fall to the court as if he were hit. Billups made two of the three free throws awarded to him and L.A. went on to steal a 105-104 victory, leaving Jazz fans rightfully incensed at the blown call. This play led some to wonder whether the playoffs would see a greater number of flops, as the reward (swinging a road game) far outweighed the risk (a warning that, at worst, carries a nominal fine).
This sequence makes it crystal clear why we should refer to these plays as "Kevin Martin Rule" flops rather than "Chauncey Billups Rule" flops. It's the same general principle -- fall down while shooting -- but Martin couldn't give a rip about Billups' relative subtlety. Here, Martin crashes hard to the court in the left corner after not being touched at all by Andre Miller. This looks an awful lot like Rick Pitino's trying to exchange handshakes with John Beilein after winning an NCAA title, doesn't it?
Judging some of the low-post, paint-area flops is tricky, because sometimes they result from a defender simply anticipating contact in a block/charge situation that never comes. Gallinari's flop is sort of like that, except more devious, as he reaches out to touch Lopez's midsection with both hands before launching backward to the court. The top-down angle almost makes this look like a basketball play, but it's completely embarrassing from every other vantage point. The fact that Gallinari is inside the protected circle, rendering his attempt pointless, makes it that much funnier. The head bop for no reason as he falls is just the frosting on the cupcake.
Sloan set an incredibly high bar when he became one of the first two players warned for flopping this season. On a list full of contact exaggerators, no one, not even Martin, went to the same ridiculous lengths as Sloan. Down 20 points with six minutes remaining in a loss to the Bulls, Sloan picks up full-court pressure defense on Kirk Hinrich, who smartly runs him off of Mohammed near midcourt. Sloan turns to see the screen coming and mostly avoids it, but then chooses not to break his momentum before unfurling a figure skating-esque 360-degree helicopter spin with both arms in the air. His dramatics are so intense that they wind up sending Hinrich to the court, too. Impeccable work.
Paul, who was one of the biggest names singled out in the NBA's official video introducing its anti-flopping policy, takes home the Flop of the Year with this masterpiece. What sets this apart is the sheer cunning. Paul wisely picks out Cousins, a noted hothead and valuable player, as his target. What better person to flop against than the NBA referees' least-favorite player? Paul then initiates the contact by lightly touching Cousins before flailing and screaming in a jumping motion that carries him roughly five feet backward. Cousins responds with a classic "get off me" dismissal as play continues. This is the best of the best (or the worst of the worst): thought-out, proactive, ridiculous, funny, shameless and shameful. A worthy winner in every respect.