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Miami Heat players react to new flopping rule

Shane Battier smiles and laughs when he talks. It’s one of the many personality traits that would one day make him a good politician.

Here’s another. Battier will look at you with a straight face and tell you he’s not one of the NBA’s serial floppers.

“Listen, I don’t flop like a lot of these guys,” Battier said. “I know a lot of people say I flop, but I’m too old for that.”

Then, after a few minutes of bantering, Battier will tell you he’s “wholeheartedly against” the NBA’s new “anti-flopping” rule.

“Reputation may play a big role in it,” Battier said.

And that’s exactly what Indiana coach Frank Vogel is hoping will happen this season when the NBA begins administering its new “anti-flopping” rule. The league announced this week that it will begin the tricky work of reviewing flops and dives around the NBA and slapping repeat offenders with fines.

You might recall from last season’s playoffs that Vogel called into question the Heat’s defensive practices during the Pacers’ second-round series against the Heat. The biggest flopping team in the NBA: that’s what Vogel labeled the Heat, and for that show of postseason gamesmanship Vogel was fined $15,000 by the NBA.

Now, under the league’s new rule, a four-time flopper will accrue the same monetary penalty.

“I think two things will happen,” Vogel told reporters in Indiana this week. “The players will not want to be labeled the biggest floppers in the league and the officials are getting these reports, so now their eyes are dialed into these floppers more.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra endorsed the new rule this week, but pointed out that “anybody that thinks that flopping comes from help-side charges, they’re getting the concept of the flop incorrectly.”

Taking charges on the weak side is a staple of the Heat’s helping defense, so it’s easy to understand why Heat coaches and players might be a little wary about the new rule. Although Battier is concerned, Spoelstra is confident his players won’t be called into question for one of the Heat’s most basic defensive strategies.

“When you’re making a help-side rotation and you’re putting your body in there, there’s either contact or there’s not,” Spoelstra said. “And if you’re getting run over, you’re getting over. There’s not as much flopping in those areas.”

Here’s how the NBA officially defines a flop: “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.”

So now the league office, which already reviews technical fouls, will now be in the business of reviewing flops as well. A first-time flopper will get off with a warning, but after that the dollars start piling up.

A second flop will cost a player $5,000, a third flop carries a fine of $10,000 and a four-time flopper will be $15,000 in the hole. For five flops, the league will withdraw from a player’s paycheck $30,000, which is roughly double the price of a KIA Soul, the official car of the NBA.

“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,” states the NBA’s news release.

A new set of penalties for playoff floppers will be released at a later date, according the league.

The league announced its new flopping rule Wednesday. By Thursday, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki was calling it “a bunch of crap.” Nowitzki, despite being labeled as one of the league’s most notorious floppers, apparently has a conscience as pure as freshly driven snow.

“I never looked at myself as a big flopper,” Nowitzki told The Dallas Morning News. “If you play me physical then, obviously, I got to sell the call and get to the line. That’s just part of the game. We’ll have to see how they enforce that.”

There’s hope for Nowitzki and alleged floppers of his ilk. The league wrote in its official “anti-flopping” news release that “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.”

In other words, better bone up on those acting skills, Dirk.

Watching for Wade

Dwyane Wade is already on the NBA’s flopping watch list, apparently. The league has cut together an explanatory video, which can be viewed at official, to help players, coaches and fans better understand what constitutes a flop under the new rule. One of Wade’s more egregious flops is used as an example.

In the play, Wade kicks out a leg to draw contact on a jump shot and then corkscrews to the ground as if the Karate Kid had just swept his leg.

“While there is marginal contact on the play,” explains the video’s narrator, “the flail and spin to the floor by the player is an over-embellishment and is inconsistent with marginal contact.”

“Over-embellishment” is the key phrase. In many instances, the speed of the game makes it difficult for referees to distinguish a legitimate foul from a flop that could win a Tony Award.

An art form

In the past, that wasn’t really a problem for the NBA. Flopping has been a part of the league for a long time — just ask former Lakers thespian Vlade Divac, who turned the flop into an art form late in his career — but late-night NBA TV shows and YouTube has turned video highlights of flopping into a point of significant embarrassment for the NBA.

“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,” said Stu Jackson, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations.

The act of fooling referees (some might call it cheating) chips away the integrity of the game.

For players like Battier, who pride themselves on drawing charges, the new rule is rife with potential problems. Chief among Battier’s concerns is how block charges are officiated. Nothing in the rulebook states that a player must go sliding backward on his jersey to draw a charge, but “the unfortunate thing about the block charge,” Battier said, “is I’ve had more refs tell me that you have to go to the floor to get the call. Inherently, there is something wrong with that.”

In other words, if Battier is fined as a repeat flopper, he’s not blaming himself.

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