Do teams need to flop?

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
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Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Charges are prime flop opportunities. With Derek Fisher on the Thunder, the Lakers hardly take any.

As Dave McMenamim reported on ESPN LA, Kobe Bryant says he is against flopping and does not intentionally take charges.

"We got a couple guys that take charges, but for the most part, the one guy that took a charge is now playing in Oklahoma," Bryant said of his longtime teammate Derek Fisher, who is now with the Thunder. "I don't take charges. Metta [World Peace] don't take charges. Steve [Blake] will take a charge every now and then, but most everybody else just stands up and plays."

Let it be noted that Pau Gasol has been known to take to the court in the name of drawing an offensive foul. But all in all, the Lakers are very much wallflowers in the NBA's flopping party.

"I don't flop," continued Bryant. "We all know what flopping is when we see it. The stuff that you see is where guys aren't really getting hit at all and are just flailing around like a fish out of water. That's kind of like, where are your balls at?"

Although Bryant makes clear charges and flops are not always synonymous, block/charge collisions are a particular hot spot for flopping. Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute recently estimated that "40 to 50 percent" of NBA charges are flops -- calls made based on the defender staging a theatrical reaction to minimal contact.

In fact, it’s worth questioning whether the entire concept of the block/charge call needs to be rethought: When a strategy leads to lots of collisions, lots of falling down (legitimate and illegitimate), lots of faking, lots of whistles, lots of stoppages of play, lots of arguments and lots of real and potential injuries, and is designed mostly to prevent our most dynamic scorers from making exciting plays, is that something basketball needs?

Hoopdata shows that the Lakers join the Thunder as the two teams taking the least advantage; they are 29th and 30th on the season, respectively, in drawing charges. With charge-taker Fisher in Oklahoma City, it's likely the current incarnation of the Lake Show is dead last. (And true to his word, Bryant takes very few charges -- according to Hoopdata, just two in as many years.)

This is great news for anyone who is eager to see an NBA with less flopping. Here we see that a team that has won lots of titles and a team projected to do the same are showing the game can be played in a fan-pleasing and effective way without manufactured theatrics. That's fantastic and strong support for the argument that curtailing flopping won't hurt basketball.

One concern, however: David Thorpe points out the Lakers are the worst team in the NBA, by a wide margin, when it comes to creating turnovers. Defensive flops are, of course, designed to do just that. It would take some in-depth analysis to make a case that the Lakers would be better if they flopped more, but it could be so -- which would send a disturbing message.

Indeed, despite what the Lakers and Thunder show us, it might be that flopping does pay for some teams, with Miami (fourth in charges drawn this season) near the top of the list, and the Spurs and Clippers undeniably in the mix.

It will take more than resolute players, those willing to "stand up and play," to stop the flop.

It's the NBA's move. The only wrong answer is doing nothing, especially with one of the NBA’s greatest superstars, the commissioner and fans all speaking out against flopping. Only the rulebook, implicitly, is for it.

But that can change.

Henry Abbott | email

TrueHoop, NBA

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