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NBA approves in-game flopping penalty, expansion of Coach's Challenge for 2023-24

Game officials will decide flopping penalties, and a team successful in its 1st Coach's Challenge will get a 2nd one in that game.

Under the new rule, a team successful in its 1st Challenge will get a 2nd one in that game.

LAS VEGAS — It didn’t take long for the NBA to go from experimentation to implementation, with the Board of Governors approving rule changes introduced only Friday with the start of the 2023 Summer Leagues.

Beginning with the 2023-24 season, an in-game flopping penalty and expanded use of the Coach’s Challenge will be added to the league’s landscape.

Both already were in effect for the 11-day NBA 2K24 Summer League still underway on the UNLV campus, as well as the events held previously in Sacramento and Salt Lake City. Like so many rule changes and tweaked interpretations, the NBA enacted them on a provisional basis for the July exhibitions.

The flopping penalty will be assessed by game officials when they perceive a physical act intended to cause a foul on another player. The offending player will be charged with a non-unsportsmanlike technical foul — which means it will not count toward an ejection — and the opposing team will be awarded one free throw. Any player in the game can be designated by his coach to shoot the free throw.

Referees can call the “flop” during live play or at the next neutral opportunity to assess the penalty. It is possible that a foul and a flopping violation could be called on the same play. The rule has been adopted on a one-year trial basis.

Scrutiny of flopping has ebbed and flowed for years, but this is the first time the tactic officially is targeted for in-game penalties. The NBA office already was reviewing dubious plays and assessing fines on a post-game basis. That practice will continue, but flops called in games will face no further financial penalties. The technical fouls will carry the same $2,000 fine as other technical, with amounts increasing for repeat offenders,

Two early culprits of the new call were Golden State’s Lester Quinones and Oklahoma City’s Jaden Shackelford. Quinones was whistled for trying to sell a foul on Sacramento’s Jordan Ford on the first day of action in the California Classic. Two days later in Utah, Shackelford embellish contact from Memphis’ Jake LaRavia to earn his penalty.

The often-obvious theatrics of flopping has generated plenty of critics inside and outside the NBA. During the playoffs in May, Warriors coach Steve Kerr called for the league to legislate it out of the game.

“The entire regular season is about gamesmanship and trying to fool the refs,” Kerr said. “It’s up to us as a league. Do we want to fix this?”

A flopping violation will not be directly reviewable by a Coach’s Challenge, though a referee could call it if noticed during a review for other actions. And there will be more reviews overall now that a team successful in its first Challenge will get a second one in that game.

Previously, coaches have been reluctant to use the tool even on obvious wrong calls if they occurred early in the game, preferring to have it handy for a late pivotal moment. Now they won’t be penalized for, essentially, helping to get calls right.

To trigger a Challenge, a team still will need to have a timeout available. If successful, the timeout was retained. That still will be the case for a team’s first Challenge, but out of concern for game length and flow, any second Challenge will use up the timeout regardless.

The NBA Competition Committee, made up of players, coaches, executives, owners and referees, unanimously had recommended the new rules for the Board of Governors vote.

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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