Two and a half months ago, we dug through all of the fines and suspensions the NBA had handed out that far into the 2017-18 season, picked out a few of the more interesting ones, then figured out whether or not the player (or players) penalized got his (or their) money’s worth. At the time, the league was up to a little over $1.7 million in fines. It has since more than doubled that number, so let’s do it again: let’s pick through the fines, find some interesting ones, then figure out if the people involved got their money’s worth.
(As an aside, let me say: A good entry point for this column would’ve absolutely been J.R. Smith, one of the top-tier beloved-because-of-his-oddness players today, getting suspended for a game for throwing a bowl of a soup at Cavs assistant coach Damon Jones, which is a real thing that happened a few weeks ago. But I watched a clip of him being asked about it at a practice and, as part of his response, he said, “I understand that everything that I do is gonna have a meme or whatever behind it.” When he did so, there seemed to be a very real weight to his words. It wasn’t quite a “sadness,” but it was close enough to a sadness that I’m not so sure I want to poke fun at the situation any more than it’s already been. That’s why it didn’t get picked as one of the entries below.)
(It felt like I should tell you that because I’m not so interested in getting 200 emails and 700 tweets saying, “I can’t believe you didn’t mention the J.R. Smith soup thing in the Did He Get His Money’s Worth? column today, you stupid idiot.”)
(Let’s get started.)
The Infraction and the Fine: During a January game between the Wizards and the Jazz, Rodney Hood attempted a shot in the paint over John Wall. The two bumped bodies in the air, and so Rodney thought he was fouled, but the closest referee (Tony Brothers) felt otherwise, and so the play continued on uninterrupted by a whistle. The Wizards rebounded the missed shot, and off they went the other way down the court. As the Jazz ran back to get in defensive position, so too did Hood, except he stayed fussing at Brothers about the non-call the whole way. Brothers warned him to be quiet, but Hood, all the way upset, continued. Brothers decided he’d had enough, blew his whistle, then hit Hood with his second technical of the game, resulting in his ejection. It’s not the fine for the technical foul that we’re inspecting here, though, or even the ejection—we’re looking at what happened afterward, because what happened afterward was incredible, and probably one of the best small moments of the entire season.
As Hood was walking off the court, a fan sitting courtside tried to (what looked like) either record a video or take a photo of Hood leaving. Hood, because he is perfect, slapped the phone out of the guy’s hand as he walked past him, knocking it several feet away. He was fined $35,000 by the league for doing so.
Did He Get His Money’s Worth? If someone had only explained to me what happened in this particular instance and I was never able to actually see it, then I might argue that Hood did not get his money’s worth. “Maybe if he’d have snatched the phone away from the guy and smashed it on the floor then he’d have gotten his money’s worth,” I’d have said like a dumb goon, because nuance is too complicated of a thing for me to understand if I’m tasked with trying to process it with only my ears. (This, I suspect, is a situational distortion caused by a lifetime of watching old action movies, because there is no room in old action movies for nuance, because big guns don’t shoot big nuance, they shoot big bullets.) BUT, and this is the very best news, there actually is video of the aforementioned slap happening (The Slappening?). Here’s a good angle:
It’s so great.
It’s so, so great.
It’s so, so, so great.
I love everything about it. I love that Hood doesn’t even look at the guy, he just smacks the phone away and keeps walking. I love that the guy doesn’t even bother to pretend to be upset, he just goes, “Well, my phone has been slapped out of my hands so now I’ll get up and go get it,” and then he gets up and goes to get it. (It’s remarkable that he didn’t make a face or scream or anything. I feel like I would react with the same amount of shock if someone slapped my phone out of my hands as I would if someone slapped a baby out of my hands.) I love that the guy is wearing a tie, because for some reason that makes the whole scene 100 times funnier. I love that—and you have to look closely to see it—but I love that the guy in the Jazz sweater to Rodney’s left absolutely cannot believe what he’s just seen when it happens. I love that Rodney slaps the hand of the guy in the suit jacket at the end of the bench on his way out of the game, then the guy in the suit jacket slaps Rodney on the back, then Rodney slaps the phone, because that’s a really good example of the law of conservation of energy, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transferred into the phone of a man sitting courtside at a basketball game. I love it all. Rodney for sure got his money’s worth here.
The Infraction and the Fine: While jostling for a rebound in the second quarter of a game between the Magic and the Timberwolves, Arron Afflalo and Nemanja Bjelica got into what looked like it was going to be a regular, normal, ordinary NBA shoving match. Afflalo, though, who has aged out of the regular, normal, ordinary part of his career and into the Chris Childs I Honestly Just Don’t Give A Fuck Anymore part of his career, had other plans. He and Bjelica banged into each other once, then Afflalo delivered a forearm shiver to Bjelica’s chest, then, and this is the wild part, Afflalo reached alllllllllllll the way back to the ABA and tried to thunderpunch Bjelica’s eyeballs out of his skull.
The league suspended Afflalo for two games for fighting, and the two-game suspension really meant he was being fined $32,119 for fighting.
Did He Get His Money’s Worth? As always, let me first say this very directly and with no hesitation: Fighting is dumb and punching people is dumb and you should not do it ever because it’s dumb and bad and not good and evil.
THAT SAID, I’m reminded right now of an incident that happened when I was teaching middle school not that long ago, and I’m going to tell you the shortest possible version of this story: One day, there were two boys in my class who, rather than working on whatever it is I had the rest of the class working on at the time, were talking (loudly enough that I could hear them) about a strategy for a fight that was going to take place later that day in a bathroom. I interrupted them, and I gave them the whole spiel about how fighting is dumb and bad and not good and evil like I did with you at the top of this section. I felt very good about it, too. I felt like I’d delivered it with enough logic and subtlety that not only had I proved that fighting was bad, but also I’d proved that fighting was for cowards. The boy said back to me, “That’s dumb,” and it’s funny to think about now but I was pretty mad at the time that that was his response.
He continued with something close to, “Even if I decide I don’t want to fight [REDACTED], he’s still gonna try to fight me, so what’s the difference?” I said something close to, “I get that. But, OK, all the other stuff aside, you already know that if you get in that fight you’re gonna get suspended from school, so all I’m saying is just do everything you can to not get in the fight.” To which he responded with something close to, “And all I’m saying is that, as far as the teachers and principal are concerned, it doesn’t matter who starts the fight, because the rule at school is that both people get suspended if they fight, it doesn’t matter who starts it. So I’m gonna just be sure to start the fight, because if the punishment is the same for both people, then I don’t wanna be the one who got hit first.” And to that, I responded with, “... I suppose you have a point,” because he really did. And that’s kind of what I’m talking about here with Afflalo. If you’re going to get fined for fighting, then you should at least make sure you actually fight. He didn’t. He swung and missed. And what’s worse: Bjelica grabbed him by his head and then held him in a headlock until the two were separated, meaning Arron Afflalo paid over $32,000 to be put in a headlock. He did not get his money’s worth.
The Infraction and the Fine: After Phoenix’s Marquese Chriss took a bit of a tumble while trying to dunk during a Jazz-Suns game, Jared Dudley bodychecked Utah’s Ricky Rubio as he tried to dribble up the court. When Rubio approached Dudley after gathering himself, Chriss blindside-shoved Rubio, this time knocking him to the floor. Both Dudley (who is a Did He Get His Money’s Worth? favorite) and Chriss were fined $25,000.
Did They Get Their Money’s Worth? This is a tricky one, mostly because it’s unclear why Dudley decided to shove Rubio. I mean, it’s clear that Chriss shoved Rubio because he saw Rubio approaching Dudley in a confrontational manner,* and so Chriss was (a) sticking up for his guy, but also (b) he probably thought that Rubio had something to do with him falling down, because why else would Dudley have shoved Rubio in that situation. So that’s why Chriss shoved Rubio. Why did Dudley do it, though? Was it because he thought Rubio was being disrespectful to Chriss by inbounding the ball quickly as Chriss laid on the floor in (what appeared to be) pain? Was it because Rubio’s hairstyle + beard combination right now makes him look like the clumsy and ill-equipped son of a European gangster in a movie about revenge? Was it because Dudley is very into politics and has adopted a strict Shove Anyone Whose Last Name Is Rubio policy? I think we need to have those parts of the question answered before we can say whether or not Dudley got his money’s worth. (If you want just a general answer, then we can go with a tentative, “Yes, he got his money’s worth.” There have been nine fines given out this season of exactly $25,000. Five of them have been for saying mean things to someone else during a game, be it another player or a referee or even a fan, and the remaining four have been because one player shoved another. And if you’re looking at things in a vacuum and considering zero other factors, shoving someone is for sure a better way to spend $25,000 than saying a mean thing to them.**)
*Also, I want to make sure it’s clear here: Saying that Rubio approached somebody in a confrontational manner feels a lot like saying that a caterpillar approached somebody in a confrontational manner, or that a bag filled with cotton approached somebody in a confrontational manner. It’s more of an odd thing than a scary thing.
**One of those four instances I mentioned of players shoving other players is when Gerald Green shoved Gorgui Dieng after Dieng knocked Chris Paul to the floor during a Rockets-Timberwolves game a little over a week ago. My very favorite thing about it is this post-shove screenshot:
I like it so much because Jeff Teague (Minnesota, no. 0) very much has that “Gerald is fighting again” look on his face that anyone who has ever hung out with someone who’s quick to fight definitely recognizes. And since we’re talking about Gerald Green right now
The Infraction and the Fine: Following a Clippers-Rockets game in January that ended with several players fussing and yelling at each other, Houston’s Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green snuck their way into the Clippers locker room using a back hallway. Once there, they got into a verbal confrontation with several Clippers players. The league suspended both Green and Ariza for two games, meaning Ariza was fined $102,357 and Green was fined $19,054.
Did They Get Their Money’s Worth? This one, even more than the Dudley situation from above, is difficult to assess because there are so many questions that have remained unanswered. Like:
- How did Ariza and Green access the secret hallway?
- Was this, like, a National Treasure situation where there were clues all around them in the stadium and finally someone figured out that if you moved a candlestick or a book on a bookshelf then a secret door would open?
- If so, what book was it? (I know what book it wasn’t, and that’s the book about Doc Rivers still being a good coach.)
- Was the secret hallway wide enough that all the players (reportedly, there were four players there—Ariza and Green, of course, but also James Harden and Chris Paul) were able to walk together side by side or was it real narrow so they had to walk one behind the other?
- If they walked one behind the other, who was the leader?
- What were Chris Paul and James Harden doing there?
- Were they gassing Ariza and Green up like, “Yeah, man! Yeah! Fuck ’em up!”?
- Or were they like the fat kid in Stand By Me who was there with the group but had to be talked into doing everything?
- Did they knock when they got to the Clippers locker room or just walk in?
- OH MY GOD OR DID THEY KARATE-KICK THE DOOR OPEN LIKE ROBERT REDFORD IN SNEAKERS?
- Did Ariza and Green have something cool to say when they busted in the room? Like maybe Ariza walked in and shouted “Looks like this game has overtime!” or “Trick or treat, bitches!” or maybe Green walked in and said “Special delivery for Blake Griffin, and it’s ...” and then pretended to unwrap a present and then pretended to open it and then finished his thought, “... an ass-whooping!”
I think we need to know the answers to all of those things before we can, with absolute certainty, say whether or not Ariza and Green got their money’s worth. If we can speak in general again, though, then I think it’s a YES for Green and a NO for Ariza. It’s worth $19,000 to surprise sneak attack the Clippers, but it’s not worth $100,000 to do so.