Two weeks ago, while the Celtics were destroying Miami in Game 2 of their first-round series and the announcers were telling stories to kill time, Reggie Miller recounted an incident from his playing days: While an opponent was shooting free throws, Jamaal Tinsley strategically tossed a towel in the air over on the Pacers’ bench within the shooter’s peripheral vision, drawing a technical foul. Reggie said he’d never seen that happen before or since, and wasn’t even sure it was a rule.
Earlier this season, I actually saw Mike Bibby do the same thing during a Hawks/Raptors game and noted it in Smack, as Bibby appeared to help Hedo Turkoglu miss a clutch free throw in the fourth quarter. That time, though, either the refs didn’t catch Bibby, or they just decided not to slap him with a tech.
Coming off last night’s Celtics win over the Cavs, where one or two free throws either way wasn’t going to decide anything anyway, Boston GM Danny Ainge is now being accused of doing the towel trick. Cameras caught Ainge — sitting right behind Cleveland’s basket in the second half — flipping a white towel while J.J. Hickson was shooting free throws in the third quarter. Ainge also stood up during times when Cavs players were shooting free throws.
“That was interesting to see that happen during the flow of the game, from Danny Ainge,” said Cavs coach Mike Brown. “If it’s it within the rules, hey, at this time, you do whatever you can to win. As long as it’s within the rules.”
It’s not that big of a deal; NBA players deal with all kinds of distractions at the free-throw line, from thundersticks to bikini posters. But those are fans and people in the stands. Among players, there’s the unwritten rule of the playground that you don’t do stuff from the bench like scream in a shooter’s ear, but in the playoffs, apparently the rules don’t matter as much. But then again, Ainge is only an ex-player now.
It is funny that Ainge would be the culprit in this case. Just the other day I was watching a Mariners game where the announcers were talking about baseball players who also played basketball. Ainge’s name naturally came up, and M’s play-by-play guy Dave Sims busted out laughing that Ainge, “was just so annoying” and how he was one of the most hated players in the NBA.