Thursday, May 30, 2013
Battier on flopping policy: Money talks
By Tom Haberstroh
MIAMI -- The Heat and Pacers are tied 2-2 in an intense battle of basketball theory and X's and O's. We have the Pacers in one corner, a young and hungry team that wins by playing big and taking away the 3-pointer and the paint. Then you have the Heat, a defending champion that thrives by playing speedy basketball and spreading the floor with 3-point shots and drives at the rim.
Fascinating basketball these days. And all anybody seems to want to talk about is the ugly residue of the game:
Shane Battier has been at the center of it all for most of his career. A habitual charge-taker often singled out as one of the most frequent floppers in the game, Battier has never been fined by the league for flopping. Serge Ibaka called him a "big-time" flopper during the NBA Finals. He has ceremoniously been awarded Flop of the Night at ESPN.com.
But even so, Battier has never shied away about being vocal about the issue and the NBA's policy to curb the silly theatrics.
Despite his reputation, Battier has publically endorsed the NBA's decision to penalize players for flopping but disagrees that charges should be eliminated from the game. He calls charges a "defensive weapon" no different than blocking a shot.
Battier has had no problem speaking his mind about flopping, but now it hits a little closer to home. Battier's teammate, LeBron James, has been fined $5,000 for flopping in Game 4 on Tuesday, along with Indiana's David West and Lance Stephenson. It marks the first time this season that a Heat player has been penalized by the league for violating anti-flopping rules.
But as the flopping issue dominates the NBA conversation, does Battier believe the league has done an effective job policing the behavior?
On Thursday, he wasn't so sure.
"I don’t know how well it’s being policed," Battier said after Thursday's shootaround. "I think guys thought about it a lot, but whether it made a difference ultimately, I don’t know."
Battier has been adamant from the beginning that flopping should be penalized, but it should be called on both ends of the floor -- not just charges.
"I think guys offensively still flop," Battier said. "I don’t think offensively flopping is called as much it could have been, I guess. The emphasis is on defensive flopping and I think that was called more, but offensive flopping is bad too. If you have to call one, you have to call the other."
Even the NBA's best players use flopping to help win games. Tony Parker, Chris Paul and James have all been punished by the league office, either by a warning or a fine, this season. Earlier in the Eastern Conference finals, James went on record to say, "Any way you can get an advantage over the opponent to help your team win, so be it."
James made those comments before he was hit with a $5,000 fine. But is it enough? Put it this way, James made $17 million this season, so a $5,000 fine is about 0.03 percent of his salary. For someone making $43,000 -- the average national wage in the United States in 2012 -- it's the equivalent of being hit with a $13 fine.
Judging by three separate fines in Game 4, flopping been pervasive as ever.
Is a $5,000 fine large enough to be a deterrent? How does the league police flopping more effectively?
"Money," Battier said. "Money, always."
Battier disagrees with the notion that the public shame has any effect.
"People say public scorn or the humiliation [matters]," Battier said, "but players couldn’t care less about being publicly humiliated. They couldn’t care less."
Battier has seen the fantastic Slate.com "Flop-era" video that set flopping clips to opera music. It drew laughs from Battier, but it didn't make him think twice about how he plays the game.
"If they want to put an opera of all my charges or flops on there, go for it," he said. "But if you take $10 from me, I’m going to be upset."
Do players not mind the scarlet letter of being a recognized flopper?
"No one cares," Battier said. "In our society now, labels don’t matter. Labels change every 10 minutes. But money? It hurts.
"I hate to sound like a capitalist, but that’s much more effective than public humiliation."