Weekly countdown: Flopping 101
Art of flopping seems to have as many supporters as detractors in the NBA
Taught how to take charges, European players are superior at the practice
More topics: Hawks' options, Thabeet's draft slide, Kobe-LeBron not natural rivals
Five things you didn't know about flopping
Flopping or drawing a legitimate charge -- isn't it all the same game? As the Finals approach and players on both sides of the ball grow more aggressive, these plays will continue to rise in importance. So here's everything you need to know.
5. Flopping is an art form. Doug Moe, the former coach of the Nuggets and consultant to current Nuggets coach George Karl, thinks defenders who fall on their backs are actors. "If you think about it, it's very difficult to knock someone down," he said. "You've got to really drive hard into somebody to knock him flat, but these guys, on the slightest contact, they're going down."
"Oh, well, I disagree," responds Rockets forward Shane Battier, among the best drawers of charge fouls in the league, and someone who resents inferences that he may be a flopper. "It's physics. When you get a stationary object and you get a force coming at him, it's a law of physics you're going to be moved backward.
"Now is the argument, do guys flop? I think that's overstated. I think there's more offensive flopping that goes on than defensive flopping: Guys trying to sell calls and whipping their heads, and guys driving in the lane and flailing their arms -- that's flopping. But no one talks about it, all they talk about is defensive flopping."
Mavericks guard Jason Terry sees merit in Moe's point in view: "Selling the charge is moving your feet and -- right before the actual blow gets there -- go ahead and fall back."
So he is falling before the offender runs him over?
"It's all part of the craft," Terry said. "Shaq's one that you might want to fall down before the contact. Because if you get hit by Shaq, then you'll probably be out for the next couple of games. Keeping that in mind, you definitely want to flop. Flopping is the art of the charge, also."
Terry understands the frustrations on both sides of the ball. "You're talking to the No. 1 guy in the league right now -- I've dunked on more centers than probably any guard under 6-2 in the history of the game, by putting a knee in their chest, using it as a springboard and dunking it."
Which is to say he's also created more griping than any 6-2 guard in history. "All the time the other teams complain about it," he said. "They say I kick them. The refs have kind of cracked down on me, but still, I still get my fair share of no-calls going in knee-high."
Ron Artest is among those defenders who rarely draws a charge as a matter of principle. "I don't like to flop,'' he said. "I hate flopping, it's corny, it sucks. I keep telling the refs sometimes it's a charge, but I'm not falling."
Once can Artest remember being rewarded with a charge call. "It was against Ray Allen," he said. "I stood on my feet, and he hit me in my chest and they said, 'Charge!' And I didn't even fall. You shouldn't have to fall to get the charge."
Battier agrees with his teammate. "I strongly believe that unless you go to the ground, you're not going to get the call," Battier said. "And I'm not saying that's right, and every referee I've talked to I've argued with, and they've said, 'No, no, you don't have to go to the ground.' Well, I very rarely see a charge called where a guy just gets knocked back and doesn't go to the ground."
If Moe was refereeing in the NBA, he says, he wouldn't award charge calls to anyone who needs to be helped up after the play. "The other thing is I wouldn't take anything from the coaches," he said. "If any of these coaches started giving it to me, I'd hit them with a 'T' before they knew it."
Now that's rich, coming from a coach who used to turn into Mussolini at the opening tip.
4. Flopping doesn't have to hurt. Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem is almost Zen-like in his charge-taking. He stands with his hands cupped like he's anchoring the defensive wall for Manchester United, and he is at peace with what will be. "You just exhale as they hit you," he said. "Just exhale and fall with it ... float with it."
"It's like being a stunt man, you've got to learn how to fall," Battier said. "I think I'm the only person alive who's taken a charge in the full court from Shaq and Yao [Ming] and lived to tell about it. Those hurt, but at the same time I know how to fall and absorb the impact so they didn't hurt too bad. You have to protect the private areas.''
The technique is identical for legitimate defenders and shameless floppers: Glide into the landing with the hands behind the hips in order to maintain balance and avoid breaking an elbow against the floor, as Battier once did in a high school game. "My body has calloused over in my lifetime from taking charges," said Lakers guard Derek Fisher, who has strengthened his neck muscles in order to save the back of his head from hitting the court.
A few of Fisher's opponents in the Western finals don't share his appreciation for drawing charges. "The last time I tried it, I dislocated my jaw," said Denver forward Kenyon Martin, who was in college at Cincinnati a decade ago when the team doctor wrenched his jaw back in place while he was on the court. "Stand in there and take a real charge? I don't plan on doing that one."
Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups isn't big on taking charges, either. "It's also the reason why I don't wear microphones," he said. "It was one of those ABC games four or five years ago. I took a charge and wound up landing on my back, on the microphone pack. Boom -- and man, it hurt me so bad, I've never worn a microphone since."
3. Europeans are superior floppers. This affinity has to come from the highest levels of soccer, where players not only dive but routinely writhe in fake agony, only to hop up and resume full speed as soon as the referee has issued the yellow card. European soccer players are the kinds of people who wear neck braces after fender-benders, and that attitude has carried into basketball.
"All the European players who come into the NBA know how to take a charge and know how to flop, too," said Orlando Magic guard Mickael Pietrus, a Frenchman who has provided aggressive playoff defense against LeBron James and others. "They teach us to practice charges in Europe."
Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan thinks that's a bad idea for the NBA. "Guys do that in college [practices], but with pros?" he said. "There were coaches years ago that used to practice it -- I heard Pat Riley may have done that back in the early days. But the risk of an injury is too much. We chart the guys who take the charges, and we talk about getting position. But if you practice it and someone falls down on someone's knee, you can injure yourself or someone else."
NBA teams may not practice flopping, but they used to reward it. "Rick Carlisle [as coach of the Indiana Pacers] used to have a kitty set up and the person on the team who drew the most charges in a month would get $1,000" Magic guard Anthony Johnson said. "That made everyone try and step in and take charges. You could do a lot with that extra stack [of money] in a month's time; I never won it, though. I was normally the guy getting beat, so I wasn't in position to draw the charges. Al Harrington and Jermaine O'Neal usually got the extra $1,000 in their pockets.''
"The 'heart and hustle' team led the league by like 100 charges," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, referring to the high-energy Orlando Magic team of 1999-2000 that helped him win coach of the year. "Back then we used to give $100 a charge, and then somehow they said that was a 'salary cap infringement' so we had to stop doing it when I was with the Magic.
"But for everybody who got a charge it was $100. We'd do it right at the end of the month, our trainer would have the tab. It was great because you would announce the charges. And Tracy McGrady would remember the one month when it was Darrell Armstrong with 15 [charges], John Amaechi 10, Tracy one -- and they would just kill him [in the locker room] for it. And now all of a sudden the next day he was running out, trying to get his body in the way, and it became a pretty cool thing.''
2. Big men shouldn't flop. Many in the league believe charges should be drawn exclusively by smaller players, a prejudice Rivers has fought for as long as he has coached. "In the olden days a big was 'soft' if he put his body in the way and took a charge instead of attempting a blocked shot and getting a foul called on him," says Rivers. "I think we've gotten smarter over the years.
"When I was with the Knicks that was all we did: Patrick [Ewing] took charges, Charles Oakley was a charge machine, and I thought that was when a change happened. Now the bigs know, if they can get there first [in order to draw a charge], that is the same as a blocked shot."
Cavaliers' 6-11 forward Anderson Varejao led the NBA in charges drawn this season, and he has spent the Eastern finals colliding with the league-leader in blocked shots, Dwight Howard, in a yin-yang duel of post play. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy sees merit in both approaches. "I'm a little embarrassed our team doesn't take many [charges]," he acknowledge.
But the old school hasn't surrendered. Whenever Rockets 7-6 center Yao Ming tried to draw a charge this season, his 42-year-old backup Dikembe Mutombo would go berserk. Yao would go down slower than a hunk of glacial shelf splashing into the Arctic, and Mutombo would yell down to the far end of the bench. "As soon as he takes a charge, I go after the assistant coaches; I say: 'What are you all teaching him! Charges!'" Mutombo said. "As a big man you are supposed to swat everything and let everybody know that the basket is in your house and nobody is coming in the paint unless they get the permission."
This point of view comes directly from former Georgetown coach John Thompson, and it makes Mutombo sad to think that his lessons are not being passed onto the next generation. "When he comes to the bench I always curse him out," said Mutombo of Yao. "You will see me screaming at him."
Mikki Moore, the 7-foot backup of the Celtics, led the league in drawing charges two seasons ago, and therefore should represent the more progressive point of view. But he is on Mutombo's side here. "What is he, 7-6?" Moore said of Yao. "He should be catching them out of the air."
1. Floppers cannot be stopped. So long as there are fouls to be awarded and LeBrons or Kobes to be halted, there will always be defenders taking dives.
In recent years commissioner David Stern has raised the idea of issuing additional penalties to floppers. But he was shouted down by coaches who say that the referees already have their hands full trying to discern a charge from a blocking foul: It would be asking too much for them to also decide in that nano-second the intent of the defender.
"The reaction was so harsh by my constituents," Stern said. "So I said, 'All right, all right, don't get excited.'"
In any case, Stern has the impression that the problem isn't what it used to be. "Vlade [Divac] retiring really helped," he acknowledged.
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