NBA commissioner could use a stern talking-to


LeBron James of the Miami Heat reacts to being fouled during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Knicks. (Mike Ehrmann/GETTY IMAGES)

David Stern is worried about flopping in the NBA. So is Indiana Coach Frank Vogel, who called the Miami Heat “the biggest flopping team in the NBA.”

So the Heat have a tendency to be a bit dramatic, just because their stars were introduced amid smoke and (perhaps) mirrors, and their players occasionally appear at news conferences in what appear to be disguises? Hard to imagine.

Anyway, it’s good to see Stern and Vogel are on the same page. So we’ll probably see some action taken on this issue. Yup, here we go: The league fined Vogel $15,000 — and Stern said the amount was not enough.

The flip-flop apparently is no longer confined to the beach, and political rhetoric.

“I think it’s time to look at [flopping] in a more serious way,” Stern told ESPN Sunday, “because it’s only designed to fool the referee. It’s not a legitimate play in my judgment. I recognize if there’s contact, [you] move a little bit, but some of this is acting. We should give out Oscars rather than MVP trophies.”

Good one, commissioner. Let’s start with the Oscar for most disingenuous reply to a question, because Stern also said of Vogel: “He didn’t have a beef; he was just manipulating the refereeing or trying to. I would have fined him much more than our office did.”

So flopping is bad because it’s designed to manipulate the refereeing — but there is no punishment for doing it. Pointing out flopping is bad because it’s designed to manipulate the refereeing — and it should cost a coach more than $15,000 for pointing it out. Even though you agree with him that flopping is bad.

Gotcha.

Stern won’t name names, of course, or teams. He’s the commissioner; he’s got to be neutral, except in matters involving teams owned by the league. Then he only has to appear neutral.

Maybe the league can really put the hammer on Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph for calling the Clippers the league’s biggest floppers “by far” and naming names: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, to be precise. Expect to see Randolph in the D-league next fall.

Stern also told ESPN this, which is even funnier than his Oscar line: “Some years ago, I told the competition committee that we were going to start fining people for flopping, and then suspending. And I think they almost threw me out of the room [saying], ‘No, let it be.’ ”

I realize Stern is no longer the most feared commissioner in sports — that’s Roger Goodell, who crooks a finger and half of the NFL’s players, coaches and owners board planes to New York, just in case — but the idea that Stern couldn’t get the competition committee to do something about flopping is flippin’ ridiculous.

What’s even more ridiculous is the attempt to stifle free speech by NBA coaches with a $15,000 fine when Metta World Peace got away with a seven-game suspension for that attack on James Harden. Seven games? For an unprovoked attack? And I don’t care what Harden said to him, if he said anything at all. Harden can’t be the first guy to trash-talk a guy who renamed himself Metta World Peace. Take a number, okay?

On the street, that same elbow to the head gets you arrested. Maybe, if you have no previous record, you get off with probation and a warning, a fine, something. Maybe not. Ron Artest — I’m sorry, I can’t refer to him as World Peace in this context — has priors, as they say on those incessant “Law and Order” reruns, usually right before some judge rules they are inadmissible in court. Fortunately, his record is not sealed. Everyone knows his priors, and he can change his name to Cuddly Kitten and still not escape them.

He’s got issues, as they say, and perhaps that had an effect on the commissioner’s decision. But it shouldn’t matter. Having problems shouldn’t give you a free shot at someone’s head. If it did, we’d basically be living in a real-life “Fight Club” every day.

Stern can try to stop the flop. He can try to stop the flop talk. He can flip on the flop. But the time to bring down the hammer is not when a coach criticizes the officiating or the behavior of his opponent. It’s when a player inflicts a concussion on an opponent and keeps running. Fifteen thousand dollars was too much of a punishment. Seven games was not enough.

For Tracee Hamilton’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/hamilton

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