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NBA finals, Lakers Celtics: Los Angeles incentivitzing players to play intelligently

Jun 2, 2010, 11:14 AM EDT

The Lakers’ methods of motivating their players to make hustle plays may seem unconventional, but it actually makes a ton of sense. According to Shelley Smith of ESPN Los Angeles, Laker players are compensated for taking charges while they’re also docked money for “illegal defense” (or defensive three-second) violations:

Last series, Phil Jackson called his big men “thin-chested” as a way
of goading them into standing strong and taking a hit, and the team has
been offering financial incentive — $50 per charge…The
money comes out of a pool accumulated by players’ fines, such as being
whistled for an illegal defense, which costs a player $25. It is a
fund, Hamblen says, to which Lamar Odom is the biggest contributor. “I
mean, I just pencil him in every night for illegal defense,” Hamblen
said. “I ask him every night, ‘Lamar, you know the illegal defense
rules don’t you?’”

The charge-taking competition, however, has yet to involve Ron Artest,
who said he learned from growing up on the New York playgrounds, that
when you take a charge, fall and then call an offensive foul, well, bad
things — like serious bodily harm — can happen. “I don’t
even know how to take a charge,” he said. “To get the charge you have
to fall. I’d rather not fall. You call an offensive foul, possibly be a
fight. That’s just how we grew up playing basketball.”

It’s a clever idea that more teams would be smart to employ. Even if $50 may not seem like much to an NBA player with a massive guaranteed contract, everyone can use a little extra spending money.

I will call shenanigans on Artest’s claims, though. The man is many things — a strong defender, a good teammate, a bit loony, a hilarious post-game interviewee — but what he’s not is some basketball purist that’s above drawing an offensive foul. Ron can flop with the best of ‘em. Artest ranked third on the Lakers this season in charges drawn at 0.21 per game, behind only Derek Fisher (0.59 per game) and Pau Gasol (0.25 per game).

The tough guy act is cute and it’s sure to convince plenty of folks, but Ron is not a guy that the Lakers need to pay to take a charge. He may not square up under the basket and wait for a defender just outside the restricted area Varejao-style, but he’ll flail a bit when an opponent uses an arm bar to push off or lowers their shoulder on a drive. Maybe he doesn’t consider that flopping, but the $50s in his wallet probably do.

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