Every once in a while, Jeff Van Gundy gets a scorpion in his britches and trots out his Angry Voice, which comes off like a cross between Lewis Black, Jerry Seinfeld and Kevin Hart. The Notorious J.V.G. struck again last Sunday, basting James Jones and the Floppers Of The World with a rant on the act of acting.
This is pretty much a perfect storm of J.V.G. anger: he says that flopping is ruining the game, intones that David Stern makes $25 million but can't solve a simple problem and interrupts Mike Breen's promo. I'm just glad they didn't pan to the announcer table during a break in action; the world cannot handle a green, veins-popped Van Gundy.
As with many of the things J.V.G. raps about, though, this rant is just red meat for rabid nostalgialistas who don't like seeing their stars buddy up, or wear pastels, or wear backpacks, or do guest spots on Law & Order, or do anything considered less than tough. To this crowd, flopping isn't just flopping: it's a reminder that the game's done changed. Van Gundy can think he's just giving his opinion, but because of his prominence and the level of respect nearly all fans have for his acumen, he's infusing the Baylessian subculture with the power of self-assurance. If someone as well-regarded as J.V.G. thinks players are sissies, then I am justified to trot out that totally hilarious and not at all troubling Bosh Spice line.
There are reasons to dislike flopping -- it makes refs' jobs harder and ends up distracting us from the game -- but J.V.G. is overstating its actual impact on the game. (Note that J.V.G.'s rant was so striving that it actually ran over a couple of possessions. It was more of a distraction than the play in question, which wasn't even that egregious a flop.) Besides, refs and the league have much more pressing issues to deal with than flopping.
* Attempts to injure. Would you rather officials stay busy assessing potential flops by subjectively judging minor contact, or working to ensure things don't get out of hands like they did during Game 4 of the Lakers-Mavericks series last spring? A flop has never ended a career. Andrew Bynum's anger has come close a few times. Taking take-out plays out of the game is a much larger priority.
* Traveling. It's still an issue, and one that affects a far higher percentage of plays than flopping. It shouldn't be this hard to fix.
* Late whistles. This is my pet subject, so I need to tread lightly so I don't replicate J.V.G. and rant. But the late whistle phenomenon in the NBA has got to be dealt with. The most common type of late whistle comes when an offensive player goes up for a shot, there appears to be contact and the shot misses. Then a beat, then a whistle. If it's a foul, that whistle needs to come right after contact -- not after the shot rims out. When these whistles come late, there's the perception that the referee is deciding whether to call a foul based on whether the shot fell or not. You don't often hear late whistles after a made shot, do you? So is the ref subjectively deciding that some contact is worth just two points, not a potential three? That's the effect: you have officials legislating free throws based on makes and misses instead of whether or not a foul was committed. It's widespread, and it's a nasty little bug the NBA's got.
But hey, flopping is for Europeans and nancies. Let's focus on that.
The NBA doesn't need to do anything about flopping. NBA players and fans already do enough. I can't credit TrueHoop's #FlopOfTheNight series enough for doing what's proper in this situation: shaming the most egregious floppers. A couple thousand dollars here, or a technical free throw there -- that's not going to stop the floppers. It sure as snot doesn't stop the chronic complainers. But being publicly ridiculed for being a flopper? That might actually work. For all of our progress in collectively escaping the machismo mindset J.V.G. plays to, it's still pervasive among athletes. We might as well leverage it to minimize the occurrence on an annoyance.
"What's up? What's up? What's up?" That's a much better salve than anything J.V.G. or David Stern could come up with.
The Hook is a twice-weekly NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.