BY DWAIN PRICE
DALLAS -- Derek Fisher admits that at one point in his storied 17-year NBA career, he did whatever he could to bend the rules and use them to his advantage.
And that included adding an occasional flop or two to his repertoire.
"Earlier in my career, was I taking advantage of being able to put referees or opponents in position where I can get a call?" Fisher asked succinctly. "Of course.
"I was trying to help my team win. But in recent years it hasn't been something that I've spent much time worrying about or focusing on."
Apparently, devious acts such as those of Fisher's have been something the NBA has spent a lot of time worrying about and focusing on. That's why the NBA took steps this past summer to institute a no-flopping rule, which went into effect at the start of this season.
The league describes "flopping" basically as players trying to fool the referees into believing that an opponent charged into them and subsequently committed an offensive foul. Those found guilty will receive a one-time warning, and then will be fined $5,000 for their second infraction, $10,000 for the third offense, $15,000 for a fourth violation and $30,000 for the fifth flop.
On a player's sixth flop, he will be subjected to an increased fine and/or suspension.
When a player is alleged to have flopped, the league reviews the film and then decides if the actions were severe enough to issue a flopping infraction.
Fisher, a Dallas Mavericks point guard who doubles as the president of the National Basketball Players Association, has a problem with that process.
"Obviously as a player you want the game to be played in the full spirit of the game, so you want the rules and the focus on rules to be about showcasing our athletes, our talent, our players," Fisher said. "I think it's tough to be able to review plays after the game is over and make a decision on whether or not a guy was flopping.
"But so far it doesn't seem to be causing much of an issue. Hopefully it's something that won't be an issue too much going forward."
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was on the NBA's Competition Committee that helped get the "flopping" rule implemented. Carlisle admits that coaches, players and front-office personnel just want a level playing field, and "flopping" unfairly tilts the field.
"It's a part of the game that nobody likes," Carlisle said. "If you ask anybody globally, they will tell you that it's something that makes the game look bad.
"So there's a strong groundswell from fans, coaches, players, from everybody, to try and eliminate it. And we felt the only way to do it is to have consequences for it."
So far, only nine players have suffered the consequences from flopping. And a pair of Brooklyn Nets forwards -- Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace -- are the only players with more than one flop.
Evans and Wallace have each been charged with two flops, and have been fined $5,000 apiece.
Also, Minnesota's J.J. Barea, Cleveland's Donald Sloan, Oklahoma City's Kevin Martin, Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia, Houston's Patrick Patterson and Omer Asik, and Chauncey Billups of the Los Angeles Clippers have each received one flopping warning infraction.
Barea, who was brought onto the carpet by the NBA for flopping in his team's season opener against the Sacramento Kings, was aghast that his defensive play was ruled a flop.
"They gave me a warning," Barea said. "I was real surprised, but after that nothing else has happened."
Barea, however, isn't blaming the NBA for attempting to clean up some of the league's dark and dirty little secrets.
"I think the NBA is trying to get the game better," Barea said. "I don't know if that's the right thing to do in this case, but they're trying.
"I think it's a tough rule to implement on the players. And it's hard for basketball, but we'll see."
For its part, the NBA wants players to man-up and play defense and stop engaging in any sleight of hands -- or body -- in an attempt to trick its officials.
"We have the best officials on the planet," Carlisle said. "They're not perfect, nor are officials in any league.
"The players are very clever at manipulating situations and making it appear that there are fouls when there aren't. So when you put something like this [fine] into force, it raises the level of awareness of the players that it's not OK to do it, and it has had a strong effect so far."
Players such as San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, Miami's Shane Battier, Cleveland's Anderson Varejao, Phoenix's Luis Scola, Evans, Martin and Fisher have reputations of flopping in an attempt to give their team an unfair edge. Kings guard Jimmer Fredette is on the NBA's side in this controversial issue.
"It's something that they want to have an emphasis on this year to make sure that the guys aren't doing it as much and really the game is being played the way it should be, and if you get fouled, you get fouled and the refs will call it," Fredette said. "If they think someone's flopping they'll just review it and give them a warning or a fine.
"They really have an emphasis on that this year and they want to stop it, so that's good for the NBA."
Fredette admits he's seen some really bad floppers, but he wouldn't name names.
"There are guys that do it all over the place, it's not just one guy or anything like that," Fredette said. "A lot of guys do it just to try to be competitive and sell a call and get a call at the end of the game when you really need one."
Mavericks center Chris Kaman wanted everyone to know that his name will never be on such a list.
"I've never been a flopper. I've never once flopped and tried to take a fall or fake a charge," Kaman said. "I just don't play that way. I don't think that's how you're supposed to play basketball.
"I'm not a guy that's trying to trick refs. I'm just trying to play it physical and take the contact."
Kaman said he knows who is responsible for a lion's share of the flopping.
"I won't say anything bad about Europeans," Kaman said. "But they all come over here and play the 'flop' game."
When reminded that he was of Germany descent, Kaman laughed and said: "I am from Germany."
Rick Mahorn, who won an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 1989, said eliminating flopping from the game helps keep the game moving faster.
"A lot of time it is an exaggerated motion, and I think most of the time the guys out there are doing a good job of acting," said Mahorn, who played 18 seasons. "It was effective for them because some guys couldn't really play man-on-man defense, so they figured they'd wait until somebody does a move, and then they'd fall."
Mahorn, who played in the NBA from 1980-99 -- with a one-year stint in Italy during that span -- said flopping was not an issue during his playing days.
"Players usually just took charges," said Mahorn, a radio analyst on the Pistons' broadcast. "You saw [Pistons teammate Bill] Laimbeer take a charge. But [Pistons teammate Dennis] Rodman, he probably was a good flopper with the exaggerated motions."
It's those "exaggerated motions" that get the best of Kings forward Thomas Robinson.
"Some stuff you can say, 'OK, that was a little extra,'" Robinson said. "I think that little extra takes away from the competitive part of the game.
"So it's a good rule because a lot of guys do get away with it, but you have times where there might have been a reaction, then somebody gets fined for flopping. It's a lose-lose, 50-50 call, so I don't have any problem with it, but it could go both ways."
In other words, it's the subjective part of the rule that angers the players and coaches. An NBA executive can look at a film -- after the fact -- and then unilaterally decide a player's fate, which is not something the players agree with.
Still, Carlisle knows that if players are honest with themselves, they know if they flopped or if they played good, hard-nosed defense.
"Generally speaking, the guys that are the floppers are smart guys," Carlisle said. "They're smart because they try to positively affect the game by fooling the referees.
"Well, they're also smart when it comes to the fact that they're going to get hit with fines that are going to increase with each additional incident. To this point, [the flopping rule has] been a very successful endeavor."
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