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Did He Get His Money’s Worth?

C.J. McCollum, Bobby Portis, and Draymond Green are among the NBA players to be fined by the league this season. But not all of them got bang for their bucks.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

On two separate occasions this season, Draymond Green has been fined $25,000 by the NBA.

The most recent instance: On Monday, the league announced that it would fine Green $25,000 for criticizing referees. He called them out following a Warriors-Clippers game last week (he received his 11th technical foul of the season during the game, which is why he was talking about them). He said that things had gotten personal between some of the officials and some of the players, and that it was “ruining the game.” He also said other things (the best was that the NBA should just go ahead and get “a whole new crop” of referees, like it grows them in cornfields), but nothing too incendiary or flashy.

The other instance: In October, the Wizards and Warriors played. Right near the end of the second quarter, Green blocked a Bradley Beal shot attempt, and when he did so, the ball was knocked out to Kelly Oubre Jr., who shot a 3. During the box-out, Beal grabbed Green by the neck (it’s hard to say whether this was intentional). The two got tangled up, neither one wanted to be the one to back away, and so they held onto each other for a few seconds before their feet got tangled up, too, and they fell to the floor. A team-vs.-team scuffle broke out (during which Kelly Oubre Jr. accidentally punched teammate John Wall in the side of the head, which is the most Kelly Oubre Jr. thing I can think of). Both players were ejected. Green was fined $25,000. Beal was fined $50,000. (Here’s a weird thing: Markief Morris, who left the bench to join the rumble but never really did anything of consequence, was fined the most of everyone involved. He was suspended for one game, losing $55,172.)

Neither of those fines were situations in which you could argue that Green got his money’s worth; he didn’t really tear into the refs enough to make getting charged $25,000 worth it, and he didn’t punch anyone or shove anyone during the Wizards skirmish, which means he was fined $25,000 for just giving a very aggressive hug to Bradley Beal. I mean, I love Bradley Beal, but I would never pay $25,000 to hug him.

Thus far in the season, the NBA has handed out $1.7 million in fines. Same as we did last year at this time, let’s comb through those fines, pick out a handful of them, and figure out if the player (or players) involved got his (or their) money’s worth.

The Infraction and Fine: During the second quarter of a game between the Hornets and the Cavaliers, Dwight Howard, a dolt, made the unofficial sign for cunnilingus at a fan, which is not a thing I thought I would ever have to write in a column about basketball. He was fined $35,000 “for making an obscene gesture” by the NBA, and also fined $100,000,000,000 for “Oh, real nice. Why would he behave that way? It’s really inappropriate” by my mom.

Did He Get His Money’s Worth? No. Paying $35,000 to perform pretend cunnilingus makes for what I would guess is the worst, least cost-efficient trip to an invisible prostitute that someone can make. (Dwight was fined $25,000 earlier this season when he made the unofficial sign for “Suck it” at a fan. I’m old enough to remember when Dwight Howard led the league in rebounds and not in fines related to genitals, real or pretend.)

The Infraction and Fine: At the end of December, Patrick Patterson was fined $10,000 for criticizing the officials via Twitter. He did so because his Thunder had just lost to the Bucks in the final moments of a game that, at the very least, should’ve gone into overtime. The circumstances: The Thunder and the Bucks were tied at 95 with 4.7 seconds left and the Bucks in possession of the ball. Khris Middleton inbounded it to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who caught it, turned, drove around Josh Huestis, and then dunked it over Russell Westbrook with about a second to go. It was a fantastic play by Giannis. The problem, however, was that he very clearly stepped out of bounds on the drive.

The refs paused the game for a second afterward, and it seemed like they were doing so to review whether Giannis had stepped out. But all they did was add a couple of extra tenths of a second to the clock and then tell the Thunder to inbound the ball. Jerami Grant tossed it to Russy, who missed a three-quarters-court desperation heave at the buzzer, and that was that. The Thunder lost. Patterson later tweeted of the refs: “They’ve been SHIT this year. There needs to be some kind of consequence for their downright awfulness rather than pointless apologies from their bosses. #dobetter.”

Did He Get His Money’s Worth? Even watching the play from afar, it seemed obvious that Giannis, still sometimes not fully aware of his mega-limbs, had stepped out of bounds on his way to the rim. (Literally as soon as the play happened, players on the Thunder bench jumped up and started shouting that Giannis had stepped out.) The replays were very conclusive (my favorite thing is if you watch the people in the arena as they’re being shown the replay of Giannis stepping out on the Jumbotron, they all explode at once, yelling and pointing at the screen, imploring the refs to just pleasePleasePLEASE look up). And what was (probably) most infuriating was that Giannis had stepped out right in front of the sideline ref, whose job it is to make that exact call. And so normally I’d say that, no, getting fined $10,000 for sending a tweet is not a case where a player got his money’s worth.* But considering how frustrating it must be to 100 percent know for a fact that you have been wronged or aggrieved, I think that makes sending this tweet juuuuuust cathartic enough to be worth that $10,000 fine.

*An example of a player not getting his money’s worth when fined for tweeting: when Eric Bledsoe, then of Phoenix, was fined $10,000 in November for posting, “I Don’t wanna be here,” on Twitter a few hours before the Suns fired their head coach. He tried to walk it back later, saying that he wasn’t referring to playing in Phoenix—he was talking about a salon that he said he was sitting in at the time, which is probably the best bad excuse I’ve ever heard.**

**Of course, if you were to argue that it was worth it because, eventually, he got the trade he ostensibly wanted, I don’t think anyone would fault you.

The Infraction and Fine: After ending an 11-game losing streak, Marc Gasol, one of the most lovable and respected players in the NBA, interviewed on live TV. The interviewer asked Gasol about the rebounding efforts of everyone on the Grizzlies, to which Gasol gave a long answer about players feeling more comfortable and taking on more responsibility. He ended it by pausing, shrugging his shoulders, smiling a bit, and then shaking his head and saying, “Overall, we won, so ... fuck it.” He smiled again, clearly happy. The interviewer laughed. And then the NBA sent him a bill for $15,000.

Did He Get His Money’s Worth? Yes, mainly for two different, unrelated reasons:

  1. As mentioned, Gasol is a charming, impossible-to-dislike player. He’s so magnetic, in fact, that even last year in the playoffs when he hit a game-winner with 0.7 seconds left against my beloved Spurs, otherwise an indefensible offense, I still couldn’t force myself not to like him. Him being so overjoyed here that his team finally won a game after weeks and weeks of losses does nothing but make him seem even more sincere, and more compelling, and more enjoyable.
  2. The phrase “fuck it” is, I would argue, a perfect multiplier. There is no instance when using it doesn’t make a situation better, regardless if it’s a good situation or a bad situation. For example, let’s say a person wins the lottery for $100 million. That’s an excellent situation. If, though, while being interviewed about having won that money, the winner is asked by the interviewer something like, “Are you going to continue to work?” and the winner responds back with something like, “I might. I might not. Fuck it,” then all of a sudden that’s a super-excellent situation. Or, if you want to work the bad angle, let’s say a person is at the hospital and his doctor tells him: “We’re going to have to perform surgery to remove your testicles. We can replace them with prosthetic ones if you’d like. Some men prefer it. Others think it’s weird.” And then the patient says something like, “A ball is a ball. Put ’em in there. Fuck it,” then that bad thing just became a lot less bad.
Portland Trail Blazers v Chicago Bulls Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Infraction and Fine: This one is darker than the others, but: Before the start of the season, teammates Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic got into a fight during a Bulls practice. (I say “fight,” but it probably wasn’t really that. Bobby was the only one who reportedly threw a punch, which I guess means it was “the start of a fight,” or maybe it was “half of a fight,” if that’s even a thing.) The punch Portis landed ended up literally breaking Mirotic’s face, as well as giving him a concussion. He was out until mid-December. Portis was fined $83,656.

Did He Get His Money’s Worth? Let me first say that breaking somebody’s face is definitely bad. That said, punching somebody can be a deeply personal thing. In high school, I got into a fight with a kid that I very much did not like. He’d picked on me for what felt like years (it was probably actually “weeks,” possibly even just “days”), and so one day I was just so fed up that, when he approached me on a basketball court at a park that I was shooting on with some of my friends and started talking shit about how he was going to beat me up, I just hauled off and punched him in the nose as hard as I could. He stumbled away a bit, turning his body away from me, and I was just punching him and crying and punching him and crying. It lasted, I’d guess, something like 10 seconds, max. And a couple of weeks later he actually did beat me up pretty good, and that was a thing that I knew was coming and had to happen. But it was worth it to me. I just hated him so much that, at the time, trading one clean shot on his nose was worth a full-on beatdown later. Anyway, what I’m saying is: You have to ask Bobby if he got his money’s worth here. It’s a question I can’t answer.*

*Here’s what I can say, though, because I don’t want you to leave this section feeling unsatisfied or cheated: During a preseason game between the Trail Blazers and the Suns, Alex Len and Caleb Swanigan got into a shoving match. C.J. McCollum, who was sitting on the bench, stood up and walked out onto the court to try and help break them up. He made it a few steps out there before someone on the Blazers was able to get in front of him and direct him back to the bench. McCollum, who never even made it to the scrum and definitely did not look like he was heading out there to bash anyone’s head in, was eventually fined $165,259 by the NBA. It’s the biggest fine that’s been handed out this season, and also it’s more than twice as much as Portis was fined for punching Mirotic’s bones into pieces. McCollum for sure did not get his money’s worth.**

**The fine amounts come via game suspensions. That’s why they’re so varied. McCollum makes $165,259 per game. He was suspended one game for leaving the bench. That’s how his fine worked out to be so much more than Portis’s, who was suspended for eight games.

The Infraction and Fine: During a game between the Thunder and the Jazz, Joe Ingles, my no. 1 pick if we’re arranging NBA players by how much they look like a background character in a movie about crooked stockbrokers on Wall Street, snuck off a rabbit punch into Steven Adams’s genitals. Nobody caught it when it happened, but Ingles was later fined $15,000 for the move.

Did He Get His Money’s Worth? Let me point out two things here:

First: Watch the video again, except this time focus only on Steven Adams. It’s crazy that he gets hit in the junk and doesn’t flinch even one single tiny percent. Like, how do you not react at all to that? The only weird nonreactions I can think of that top it are (a) Kobe’s most famous one where he didn’t flinch when Matt Barnes tried to scare him with the basketball, (b) that scene they used to do in all the old action movies where a guy would put a cigarette out in his hand and not react to the burn. (The Adams thing reminds a bunch of that picture of him where he’s been upended during a chase for a loose ball and literally landed on his head and neck but he’s still staring at the ball.)

Second: The funniest part is that Ingles not only totally gets away with the sneak hit, but also scores two points on a breakaway layup immediately after, to which Adams responds by bumping him with his shoulder, earning himself a technical foul.

As for whether or not Ingles got his money’s worth: The answer is no. The whole point of hitting someone with a cheap shot is so they’re in a bit of pain for a while. That didn’t happen with Steven Adams, because that rarely happens with Steven Adams. You have to full-on karate kick him in the dick like Draymond Green did if you want him to react. Any move short of that, and you’re not getting anything out of him. Tapping him in the peen like Ingles did is no different than whispering someone’s name at them from a million miles away; technically, you might’ve done a thing, but the only person who was ever going to know about it was you.

An earlier version of this story misstated the amount of C.J. McCollum’s fine. It was $165,259, not $169,259.