Posted June 2
There is a new four-letter f-word ladies and gentlemen, and it’s ruining the NBA. While basketball players have been known for the traditional f-word, the new one is actually affecting what happens on the court, and I am floppin’ tired of it.
Turn on a game during the playoffs, and all you see is a flop here, a flop there, a flopper floppin’ everywhere. And nearly every time, it works. The charge call is more ‘in’ than headbands and terrible free-throw shooting. In fact, there haven’t been this many charges since J.P Blackford and Eric Daleo went to the liquor store.
Now that the NBA Finals are under way, I’m at a breaking point. The NBA is five flop/charge calls away from losing me. When acting becomes an important skill in winning a ring, teams are going to start hiring B-list actors as role players. I think we’re only two years away from Dustin Diamond and Ben Affleck suiting up for the Lakers (and yes, in the next two years people will come to realize that Affleck is to acting what I am to bodybuilding).
I blame Dennis Rodman and Shane Battier for the trendy flop/charge call. These two players couldn’t be more different in personality but they share a common bond in their place on the flop timeline.
Rodman started using the flop effectively during his final days as a Piston and then began to perfect the craft as a Spur and Bull. Then came Battier, who during his days at Duke turned the flop into an art form. Players giving up six inches would come down the lane, breathe on Battier, and down he went. Being such a fine young basketball player at such a fine university, the refs gave it to him every time. Future Dukies like Mike Dunleavy, Jr. learned from Battier, and soon Blue Devils’ games became flop instructional videos.
With Battier’s perfection of the flop, several players that were already in the pros added the technique to their games, with Vlade Divac becoming the most gratuitous offender. Let’s just say that if the state of Texas ran the NBA, Divac would already have been executed for his egregious flops (along with a few innocent black players who couldn’t afford a decent lawyer or get a fair sentencing – but that’s another column).
Eduardo Najera also has the flop down cold, although he barely needs it, since a charge is called if anyone comes within a two-foot radius of the Dallas forward. I guess it turns out that all of Mark Cuban’s whining about officiating finally paid off.
As I remember it from my younger and somehow larger days at Jon McGlocklin Basketball Camp, a charge was called if either a) the defensive player had both feet in place, b) the offensive player was judged out of control or c) the offensive player lowered his shoulder into the defensive player. It was also my understanding that if any of the above occurs inside the semi-circle under the basket, no charge should be called.
For starters, they may as well get rid of the semi-circle. The refs never pay any attention to it, calling charges in the semi-circle, on the semi-circle, and anywhere close to the semi-circle.
You can also forget about the feet in place rule, because the out of control rule has taken over. Basically, I could be thrown into the path of an offensive player cannon-ball style, and even if I’m in mid-air, completely horizontal, a charge will be called if that player was moving faster than a caterpillar. Apparently, driving to the basket at any high rate of speed constitutes out of control, regardless of the defensive player’s position.
The only part of the charge call refs seem to get right is the lowering of the shoulder, which they even called on Shaq this year (my guess is the head of officiating rented O’Neal’s 1996 feature film “Kazaam” and he’s still upset over wasting 90 minutes and $2.99).
An additional theory I have on the trendy flop/charge call is that refs simply enjoy the motion of a charge call over the motion of a blocking call. To make a blocking call, you bring both hands to the sides of your hips and then thrust your pelvis forward. It’s a little awkward, looking more like the moves of a Vegas showgirl than an NBA ref.
For a charge call, you place one hand on the back of your head and punch your fist forward. Most of the time during these playoffs, the refs take about five running steps as they make the charge motion as the crowd goes nuts.
I feel like I’m watching the WWF or WWE or whatever evil organization Vince McMahon is running. The refs are practically playing to the crowd. I could swear I saw Stone Cold Steve Austin calling game five of the Western Conference Finals (and like any human being with a mild understanding of the game, he did a better job than Bennett Salvatore).
So please, players and refs of the NBA, restore some credibility to your professions, if only because it will save me money. Save you money, you ask? Well, if the refs stop calling every flop as a charge, the players will stop flopping. If the players stop flopping, I’ll finally be able to watch basketball again without constantly using the other f-word as I throw things at the television. And if I stop throwing things at the television, the chances of GW charging me $1,500 for a broken 1994 RCA TV are far less likely.