In the two and a half weeks since the 2018 NBA playoffs began, the league has issued 53 fines. Nearly all of those were the $2,000 kind that accompanies any regular technical foul, but four of them were actual, legitimate, genuine fines. Russell Westbrook received a fine of $10,000 on April 24. Markieff Morris received a fine of $25,000 on April 22, and his twin brother, Marcus Morris, received a fine of $15,000 the same day (an expensive day for the Morris family). And Justise Winslow received a fine of $15,000 on April 20. Same as we did with the regular-season Did He Get His Money’s Worth? column, we’re going to go through the fines and figure out whether each player got his money’s worth. First, though, one of my favorite Get Your Money’s Worth stories:
Each summer, two of my three sons spend a week on the road with my parents. It’s a grandparent-grandchildren bonding trip that they’ve been participating in for the past five years. At first, it was just the four of them together (the two boys and my two parents, I mean), but starting two years ago, three of their cousins (a 7-year-old boy, a 7-year-old girl, and an 8-year-old girl) began going as well. They do all sorts of stuff during that week—they hike, they swim in rivers, they go to waterparks, they go to petting zoos, they explore caves, and on and on. It’s a fun, good, important time.
Last summer—and this is the realest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life—but last summer, on, like, the third or fourth day of the trip, the kids were all hanging out in the back of the little travel trailer that they were going to be sleeping in that night. They were watching a movie and eating snacks and it was all just a very normal thing. But then, the 7-year-old girl (let’s call her J) had what she thought was a brilliant idea, and before I tell you what the idea was, first let me tell you this: J is very allergic to gummy bears. There’s some kind of dye in them that, if she ingests it, causes her whole face and neck to swell up like what happened to Will Smith in Hitch. It’s wild. She’s not affected at all if she’s near them, and she’s not affected at all if she touches them—it’s not that level of allergy—but if she eats them, it’s a bad thing. And everyone in the family (even all the children) is aware of it.
But so: The kids were all watching a movie and eating snacks and it was all just a very normal thing, until suddenly it wasn’t. J, that adorable little renegade, saw that the 7-year-old boy had a bag of gummy bears as his movie treat. She asked him for some. He told her no, that he knows she’s not allowed to have them. She told him that it was fine, because she had a plan.
They get into a big yelling fight about it, and so imagine you’re one of my parents and you’re in the opposite end of the travel trailer drinking a tea, minding your business and relaxing before bed, and then you hear this big, loud ruckus from the kids fighting. Then it gets quiet. Then you see J. And she’s walking toward you. And she’s holding something in her left hand. And you can’t quite tell what it is, but it’s definitely something. And she walks all the way to you, and she’s completely calm, and she looks at you and says, “Here, you’re gonna need this,” and then hands you one of her EpiPens, which is this little needle thing that injects epinephrine into her body to counteract the effects of an allergic reaction. “Why am I going to need this?” you ask. And then you realize she’s also holding something in her right hand. And she says back to you: “Because I’m about to eat all these gummy bears,” and then she opens her right hand to reveal the gummy bears she’s holding. Then she shoves them in her mouth and starts chewing them before you can do anything about it.
She really did that. She really, really did that. She saw the gummy bears, decided they were too delicious to ignore any longer, remembered that her mom had packed two EpiPens for the trip, and just ate them, knowing that the EpiPen would keep her from swelling up too bad.
When my wife and I went to pick up my sons from the trip, J told me what happened. (She was telling everyone. She was very proud.) I asked her whether it was worth having to get injected with the EpiPen. Her response: “Yes. Gummy bears are really good. It was worth it.”
The four playoff fines:
The Infraction and the Fine: During the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the Jazz-Thunder series, Raymond Felton (probably inadvertently) hit Rudy Gobert in the crotch while fouling him to prevent him from rising up and dunking. While walking away from the skirmish, Gobert said a thing or two to Felton. In response, Russell Westbrook, who had just checked into the game from the scorer’s table, ran over and got in Gobert’s way, shoving Gobert’s arm away when Gobert reached out to distance himself from Westbrook. Westbrook was fined $10,000 by the NBA for the altercation.
Did He Get His Money’s Worth? Well, there are two ways to look at this one, really.
The first way: There have been four other fines this season that were for exactly $10,000. Joel Embiid was fined $10,000 for saying a not nice thing about LaVar Ball on Instagram (hilarious; worth it). Eric Bledsoe was fined $10,000 for posting a message on Twitter that started a bunch of trade rumors (hilarious; but not worth it). Patrick Patterson was fined $10,000 for criticizing the referees on Twitter (not hilarious, but worth it because he was right). And Evan Turner was fined $10,000 for making “an inappropriate gesture” after a shoving match during a Blazers-Thunder game (there’s no angle of video that gives us a clear look at the gesture in question, and it was never specified by the NBA what kind of gesture of it was, but this clip appears to show Turner making the jerking-off hand signal, which, if that’s what he was fined for, then: hilarious; worth it). Westbrook getting fined $10,000 for shoving away one of Gobert’s arms feels like a fifth-place finisher in the Was This $10,000 Fine Worth It conversation. It was neither hilarious nor menacing enough to have any real impact beyond the couple of seconds immediately after it happened. It was absolutely not worth it.
The second way: The day after Game 4, it was reported that there was a possibility that the NBA was going to suspend Westbrook for Game 5. (The line of thinking was that Westbrook had walked onto the court to approach Gobert before he was checked into the game, which is an automatic one-game suspension.) That being the case, you could probably make the case that the $10,000 fine was really just a way for the NBA to say that Westbrook had been disciplined without it having to suspend him, which, if true, makes the fine absolutely worth it.
(In the moments after Gobert had been hit in the genitals, all four of the other Jazz players on the court—Ricky Rubio, Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, and Jae Crowder—gathered around him to make sure he was all right. Crowder patted Gobert on the back as Gobert keeled over in pain, which is funny to me. Patting a guy on the back as a way to try to help him feel better about having just gotten hit in the dick is like rubbing his head after he’s just twisted his ankle. You’re doing something, sure, but you’re not really doing anything.)
The Infraction and the Fine: During the first quarter of Game 3 of the Raptors-Wizards series, Markieff Morris and OG Anunoby got into a shoving match. (Morris said after the game that Anunoby had swung his elbow a little too high for his liking while trying to navigate a pick.) Other players jogged over and got into the middle and Kenny Mauer (the referee standing nearest by) tried to jump into the fray, too. Morris, not realizing that it was Mauer who was grabbing at him, pushed him away. The NBA fined Morris a total of $25,000 for (a) attempting to escalate a situation (it was Morris who first shoved Anunoby), and (b) for contact with an official.
Did He Get His Money’s Worth? Here’s the back half of the quote about the Anunoby thing that Morris gave to ESPN: “We needed some physicality. I felt like when we played them in Toronto, they did everything too freely. So this is me trying to set the tone for how we need to play the whole series, especially on Sunday.” So, similar to the Westbrook fine earlier, there are two parts to consider here.
First, the Wizards were down two games to none to the Raptors in the series before Morris shoved Anunoby. They ended up winning Game 3 (and then Game 4, too). So if the point of getting after it with Anunoby was to help his team win, then yes, it worked and the fine was worth it. I’m sure that if, after Game 2 was over, you’d have said, “Hey, Markieff. If you set $25,000 on fire, it’ll guarantee that you go into Game 5 tied 2-2,” I have no doubt that he’d have made that trade. You know what I’m saying?
Second, there’s the referee angle. Consider this: Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, and Robin Lopez were all also fined $25,000 at various points this season for criticizing the refs, and all they did was talk bad to them or about them. Morris got to actually push one, which, if you’re measuring things like this, is definitely worth more than saying something to a ref. So you combine the Anunoby part of this fine with the referee part of this fine and, really, this whole thing was a very high-value bargain for Morris. He got his money’s worth.
(As was mentioned in the first paragraph of this article, Markieff’s twin brother, Marcus, was fined $15,000 for criticizing the referees the same day that Markieff’s fine came down. Marcus’s fine came because he accused the referees of being out for him after he was given a quick technical during Game 3 of the Celtics-Bucks series. He definitely did not get his money’s worth. [All he said was: “It’s been the same shit all year. I’m expecting it.”] The only interesting part of this exchange is that it serves as a reminder that Marcus sarcastically patted a referee on the butt after the referee ejected him from a game at the end of March, which is super fucking funny.) (Somehow, Marcus didn’t receive a fine for the butt-patting.)
The Infraction and the Fine: During the second quarter of Game 3 of the Sixers-Heat series, part of the protective mask that Joel Embiid wears during games was knocked off. Justise Winslow saw it and made sure to step on it as he walked down the court during a pause in play. The NBA fined him $15,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Did He Get His Money’s Worth? This one feels like a yes, but only situationally. Because, listen, I am very pro–Joel Embiid. Watching him play basketball is a great deal of fun, and watching him exist on social media is somehow even more fun. But I 100 percent could see and understand how someone who is playing against him could feel differently. And so if you take that general feeling of anti-Embiid-ism, and then add it up with how Embiid has seemed to take extra delight in making fun of the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside (Embiid is still tossing grenades onto Whiteside’s lawn even though the Sixers have already knocked the Heat out of the playoffs), then I think that makes it very worth it to take any sort of little extra shot at Embiid that you can, which, for Winslow, presented itself as a chance to cause a bit of momentary inconvenience for Embiid by stepping on (and breaking) a piece of Embiid’s protective mask (the Sixers trainers quickly attached a new shield to the mask, and Embiid was back playing in the game just a couple of minutes after the Winslow stomp). This one was worth it, but only because it was Embiid.