|NBPA head Billy Hunter: The NBA can't impose new economic discipline without first bargaining with the union. (Getty Images)|
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The National Basketball Players Association said Wednesday it will file a grievance and unfair labor practices charge against the NBA over new disciplinary guidelines aimed at curtailing flopping.
"The NBA is not permitted to unilaterally impose new economic discipline against the players without first bargaining with the union," executive director Billy Hunter said in a statement.
Earlier Wednesday, the NBA announced a new fine schedule for flopping, the practice of tricking the official into calling a foul by exaggerating contract. Under the guidelines being challenged by the union, the league said players would receive a warning for the first flop, followed by fines of $5,000 for the second offense, $10,000 for the third, $15,000 for the fourth and $30,000 for the fifth. Beyond that, players would be subject to increased discipline at the league's discretion, including higher fines and/or suspension.
All punishments would be handed out after possible flops are reviewed on video after the game
Hunter called the new rules "without precedent in our sport or any other sport," and characterized the penalties as "a vague and arbitrary overreaction and overreach by the commissioner's office."
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said, "Although we haven't seen any filing from the Players Association, our adoption of an anti-flopping rule is fully consistent with our rights and obligations under the collective bargaining agreement and the law."
While it may seem that the union is opposing something almost everyone else is in favor of -- flopping is the bane of our basketball existence -- the move by the NBPA was expected and largely procedural. Union officials are not necessarily opposed to putting rules in place to curtail flopping, but are prepared to argue that monetary discipline cannot be imposed outside of the fine schedule for various offenses already contained in the collective bargaining agreement.
Player reaction Wednesday was strongly in favor of the new flopping guidelines, however -- at least at Lakers camp, where Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash all gave their approval for the concept, if not the execution.
"I'd love to see it have an impact on the game itself," Bryant said. "In international play, they give you a technical foul, a free throw and you get the ball back. I like the rule, though. Shameless flopping is just a chump move. We're familiar with it, and Vlade [Divac] kind of pioneered it in the playoffs against me and Shaq."
Nash said it's "good, actually, to try to keep the game honest and penalize guys for trying to trick the referees." Moments later, he was accused by his own teammate of flopping in practice.
"I drove down the lane today and I saw him and as I was going towards him, I passed the ball to Kobe and [Nash] kind of touched me and said, 'Ahhhh!' and fell on the ground," Howard said. "That's a flop. And coach called a charge on me, but he's going to get fined by me and David Stern."
After Howard informed his new point guard of this, Nash replied, "There's no videotape in here." Good comeback, but it's not clear whether this incident was an indictment of flopping or the new offense the Lakers are running. Shouldn't Nash -- not Dwight -- be driving down the lane and passing to Kobe?
Anyway, Howard said the only problem he had with the new rule was that punishing floppers after the fact isn't going to change any of the outcomes on the floor during the game.
"If guys are going to flop in a game, we're going to get the foul called," Howard said. "So the fine is not really going to help us in the game. It is what it is. I've never flopped. I don't know how to flop. For the guys who do, this is good. They can't do it as much and guys like me can be a little bit more physical and get away with it."
Howard, who perennially is among the league leaders in technical fouls, said he doesn't believe handing out in-game techs to floppers would be a better solution.
"I don't want anybody to get a technical foul for flopping," Howard said. "I just think you shouldn't flop in the game, especially in the paint. Some guys are really good actors. So instead of playing basketball, maybe they should start acting here in Hollywood and it would be a better fit for them."
The union will file its grievance with the league office and its labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board, where a similar charge related to the owners' lockout languished for months and ultimately was never ruled upon in time to help the players.
There was dialogue among league and union officials about the new policies prior to Wednesday's announcement by the NBA office. A person familiar with the discussions said the league initially proposed a maximum fine of $50,000 for flopping, but settled on $30,000 for the fifth offense.