The NBA's anti-flopping rule is a timid one that has been timidly enforced.
And just maybe it's totally working.
Where the league might have done something bold with technology, they did not. (My HoopIdea is they'd bring the off-site anonymous video analysis they're doing post-game into real time. If the league can identify and punish a flopper, why not do so before his flop decides a game?)
Meanwhile, even the timid rule they instituted -- post-game video review results can result in warnings and fines -- has not resulted in any real punishment yet. A grand total of four players (J.J. Barea, Donald Sloan, Kevin Martin and Reggie Evans) have received warnings.
And yet ... to the naked eye it appears the league's rule is having more or less the desired effect of reducing incidents of flopping. A rule that was broadly praised by players when it was announced seems to be having a good effect in the early going.
Last Spring I felt like I could identify at least one certain flop per game, minimum. Any night of NBA action would suffice to come up with a strong #FlopoftheNight. Now we are hundreds of games into the 2012-2013 season and #FlopoftheNight feels a bit over the top. Most of what we're seeing just doesn't rise to that level. Some nights of this season there are no good candidates at all.
Noted anti-flopper and ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy says he's not noticing as many flops either: "It's important that the league stay vigilant in its enforcement to keep the players in line," he points out. "So far it seems to be affecting the players in a positive manner."
Heat forward Shane Battier says this season feels a bit different, but only on one end of the floor. He tells the Heat Index's Tom Haberstroh: "I think offensively, people are less apt to give the ol' 'Oh my gosh, I've just been shot' reaction after minimal contact. Defensively, I don't think it's changed at all. It hasn't changed me, and I don't think it's changed our team. Offensively, people are less apt to act like they've been handled by Jack the Ripper."
Battier was a rare player who expressed skepticism about the rule. "I had trepidations initially," he explains. "I did. But once you're out there, it's the last thing on your mind. If there's a play to be made, you make the play so you don't worry about the reaction."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra thinks the rules may be causing referees to swallow their whistles on particular plays. "I noticed it last night," he says, "watching some other games, some guys are coming over from the weak side and taking a hit, they're not calling that as much. I don't know if that's subconsciously because of the rules."
Battier's teammate Dwyane Wade says if the rule is having any effect it's because it's in everybody's heads: "Watching games, if a guy takes a regular charge you hear somebody say, 'Flopping!' They messed everybody's head about what flopping really is."
But the bottom line for Wade is that the game has not changed, as he tells Haberstroh: "I haven't seen any difference."
Battier agrees the psychological aspects of the rule are paramount. "I had a discussion with one of the refs about it," he says. "They basically told me to shut up about it and stop talking about flopping. My point was that by talking about it, it has become a psychosomatic, it's become a psychological matter for everybody. They said to just shut up so I did."