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What's "part of the game," and what isn't?
Dennis Schröder is annoying. Even if you like the Lakers — and I would counsel that you not — in your heart of hearts, you know this to be true.
Now, why is that?
He’s a pest. One of those undersized ankle-biter guards with an earned reputation for playing just a smidge dirty. He plays fast, sometimes to the point of careless. His jumper is less than picturesque. He’ll pick you up full court, he’ll get in your jersey. He’s professionally vexatious. Dennis the Menace indeed.
While that’s all true, let’s be real. What really annoys you about him?
He flops. He flops like a goddamn fish. He flops in color, and in rhyme. He flops like Paper Mario. He’d flop like there’s no tomorrow, but there is. For the truest flopper — the Flopper That Was Promised — there’s always tomorrow. Another fraudulent call awaits, for floppers always prosper.
And of course he flops! He’s European! Worse — German. They play the other kind of football over there, and you know how those guys are.
Not us, right America? Remember when basketball was pure heartland grit, built Ford tough? Before the diva theatrics long associated more with the beautiful game came to uggify ours?
I Flop, You Flop
I don’t remember that. It’s always been this way for me, and I’m starting to gather that basketball players were flopping long before Vlade Divac and Pau Gasol came along, to say nothing of the South American greats: the visionary flopagandist that was Manu Ginobili, and a personal favorite, former Cavaliers power forward and fourth Doodlebop Anderson Varejão.
Trader Danny fleeced refs before GMs. Bill Laimbeer drew a lot of fouls on top of those he committed. Baron Davis was an Oscar winner before he dated one, and you had to know Dennis Rodman was going on this list.
The all-time greats are no less guilty. I’m late to the LeFlop moniker, but I dig it. Reggie Miller was incessant. Stockton was always auditioning. Most of the future Hall of Famers playing today — Doncic, Harden, Durant, Embiid, CP3, Curry, Draymond, Jokić— they all do it. Even owners are getting in on the fun lately. It’s everybody.
Schröder thus joins a storied tradition.
Take it from Hall of Famer Frank Ramsey, the sixth man on the Bill Russell Celtics that dominated the league in the 50s and 60s, who recounted his covert flops to Sports Illustrated back in 1963.
“WHY I FALL
Drawing fouls chiefly requires the ability to provide good, heartwarming drama and to direct it to the right audience. I never forget where the referees are when I go into an act. The most reliable eye-catcher is still the pratfall. Particularly on defense, when everything else fails, I fall down. Luckily, I happen to be type-cast for the part, because I have a peculiar running style—back on my heels, with my knees locked. It makes falling very easy and natural-looking for me.”
If you weren’t such a lil’ rascal, Frank, I’d almost feel bad for you! That’s not how running works, but we appreciate your candor.
There’s Your Trouble
The terminology reveals an inherent issue here. We call it “drawing fouls” for a reason — part of the game of basketball is to draw your opponent into fouling you, legitimately or otherwise, so as to disrupt their rhythm, make them think twice about their next move, or better yet, put them on the bench.
So, you want to know why everybody flops? Because it works. Because it’s always worked.
Is it worse now than it used to be? I mean, probably. Everyone acknowledges that the game’s less physical than it was 30 years ago, so it stands to reason that guys are trying harder to sell less contact overall.
I get that. There’s a competitive edge angle to this, and I don’t expect flopping to ever stop entirely. I also don’t think wrist-slap fines are going to deliver that result, and the NBA has apparently come to the same conclusion.
After coming out guns blazing in 2012, their powder has grown progressively drier since. It’s hard not to get the sense that they’ve given up trying to fix it.
And that would be a mistake, for we are at floppy risk.
The NBA is an entertainment product. When you identify flaws in that product — like the barely watchable fashion in which most of your games end, or the looks of incredulity as your stars whine about every single call — it’s in your best interest to address them. Or else — surprise! People may start to like your product less.
That, to my mind, is a problem.
Oh. You wanted solutions? I don’t do those.
But you could start with adopting the FIBA rule, which counts a flop as a technical rather than just a common foul. Two is fewer than six, so if a player gets called for a flop once, they’ll clean it up or risk ejection. They’d also add up over the course of a season, which might ultimately be the greater deterrent.
More telling still, college basketball already did this last year. Always a good sign when you’re a step behind the NCAA.
Look, let’s just agree that it’s worth a try, and if we’re still running into issues, we can workflop it.
Til then, my advice? Grin and bear it.
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