The NBA introduces new guidelines to penalize a flop with a technical foul

There will be more to the NBA’s failures this year than the slim chance of a nominal fine and a few hours of social media ridicule.

As part of an effort to improve gameplay, the NBA’s competition committee adopted guidelines in July that allow referees to assess a technical foul on a player who tries to trick them into a foul. This initiative takes steps to penalize “non-basketball plays” – such as: B. Foulbaiting by attacking a defender – and to reduce the number of “take fouls” that interrupt scoring opportunities in transition.

Flopping has been an aesthetic scourge for years, and the NBA’s strategy to curb it has evolved. In 2012, then-commissioner David Stern instituted an anti-flopping program that included announcing violations, distributing videos of challenged plays and increasing fines for repeat offenders. The “naming and shaming” approach had some impact, but the program, which relied on postgame video reviews rather than in-game calls, largely fizzled out after Stern’s retirement in 2014. Last season, the NBA did not impose a single flop penalty and issued only occasional warnings.

With its new guidelines, the league aims to eliminate the ugliest deceptions while being careful not to humiliate the perpetrators. Referees were given the acronym STEM to distinguish “secondary, theatrical and exaggerated movements” that trigger a technical foul and award a free throw.

“We’re redefining what a flop is so that a flop comes with a penalty,” Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s director of referee development and training, said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “There will still be embellishments and improvements that are permitted. We want to get rid of the egregious, obvious and exaggerated examples that make NBA players look bad, that risk making NBA referees look bad, and that are just plain bad for the game.”

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STEM movements include excessive thrashing; Travel a significant distance after minor contact; and other unnecessary actions that could injure players. A player is not considered a technical flop if he jerks his head back after absorbing a shock; falls backwards while preparing to attack; makes a reflexive action in anticipation of a collision; or lands naturally when shooting or defending.

For example, then-Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart defended Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden on the perimeter in the 2022/23 season opener. Harden had minimal contact with Smart before reverting to a jump shot, which caused Smart to throw himself backwards, slide into the paint and put his hands up while looking for an offensive foul.

Last year, the referees allowed the game to continue without penalizing an offensive foul on Harden or a defensive foul on Smart. This year, Smart would be assessed a technical foul because his actions met the STEM criteria.

“The contact and the response to that contact are not consistent,” McCutchen said. “There is minimal contact followed by an exaggerated, theatrical reaction.”

Smart found himself on the other end of a potential flop during a playoff game between the Celtics and Miami Heat. As he dribbled down the court, Smart turned left, hoping to draw a foul on Kyle Lowry, who was watching the play from behind. When Smart and Lowry made contact, Lowry exaggerated the collision and took several steps toward the sideline.

Smart received an offensive foul for inducing contact. This year, Smart would still receive an offensive foul, but Lowry would also be assessed a technical foul for his overreaction. In addition to Smart and Lowry, Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, Denver Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and 76ers guard Patrick Beverley were also cited by league officials for flopping violations during Thursday’s conference call criticized.

Importantly, flop violations do not count toward the two technical fouls that result in a player being excluded. A player would still be eligible to play if he received a technical foul for a flop and a second technical foul for arguing with an official about the flop decision. A player could continue playing even if he received multiple technical fouls for flopping in the same game.

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To signal a flop, the referee touches him on the shoulder and in some cases allows play to continue. In the event of Smart’s flop against Harden, Boston’s defense would have gained an advantage if the whistle had blown immediately, as Harden would have been denied an open shot. This season, when the same game took place, referees allowed the game to continue until a dead ball, a successful shot, or some other situation occurred in which neither team had a clear advantage.

NBA coaches, who can use a second challenge if their first challenge this season is successful, cannot challenge flop calls. If referees miss a flop call, the league can retroactively impose a fine, starting at $2,000 per person for the first five violations.

While the league’s referees have reviewed more than 200 sample plays to determine what constitutes a flop, the league’s narrow definition of STEM contact is unlikely to result in a flood of technical fouls on the flop. The NBA hopes that immediately penalizing a free throw will be enough of an incentive to curb the worst offenses. McCutchen pointed to a sharp drop in fouls in transition as evidence that players can quickly adapt to rule changes: When increased penalties were implemented for the 2022-23 season, there were only about 200 such fouls, down from about 1,800 the previous season .

“We don’t come here to punish or embarrass people,” McCutchen said. “We just want that part of the game to go away. The competition committee made it very clear to us that we didn’t want to go to the line for 20 of those free throws [flops] per game. We want the big ones, the clear ones, the ones that embarrass the competition. If we do that, we think that’s a pretty good middle ground.” The NBA introduces new guidelines to penalize a flop with a technical foul

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