Ball Don't Lie - NBA

It is commonly accepted that a technical foul is a bad result for the team that earns it. The opposing team gets a free foul shot with no one else on the line, plus they get the ball back. This is not good, because the point of basketball is to score more points than the other team. On top of that, the man with the technical is just one more tech away from being ejected from the game. This is also not good, because teams generally like to have as many players available as possible.

Now that I have cleared up that bit of controversy, let me totally blow your mind with these words from Kendrick Perkins(notes), new Oklahoma City Thunder center and long-time member of the very tough Boston Celtics. From Darnell Mayberry at The Oklahoman (via PBT):

But the recently-acquired 6-foot-10 center is not just a hot head who can't control his temper. Perk insists there's a method to his madness.

"It's times that you can get a good tech," Perkins explained. "You set the tone every now and then."

Most of Perkins' five technical fouls in a Thunder uniform have come from altercations with opposing players. Jawing. Pushing. Stare downs. That sort of stuff. But Perkins doesn't think techs of that variety are a problem. In those situations, Perkins said he's intentionally pushing other players' buttons. He's playing the role of the schoolyard bully, testing and taunting his competition to see how far they'll allow him to go.

As Perkins said, if he pushes and is not pushed back he knows he has the upper hand. If he barks and his man backs down, he know he's won the game within the game.

Perk has five technicals in only 12 games with the Thunder, enough to tie him with Serge Ibaka(notes) for the team's season lead. That's a large number, obviously, and it seems unlikely that all five were conscious decisions to prove that OKC has a toughness advantage. Can't the same point be proven by a strong foul to deny a basket at the rim or by grinding out a defensive possession?

Still, there may be some truth here, in part because the tactical technical is already a part of accepted basketball wisdom. When teams are facing big deficits, the coach will occasionally get a technical on purpose to reenergize his team. It doesn't always work, but it's assumed that these technicals are not entirely by accident. Why couldn't a player's technical do something similar?

It could, certainly, but the fact is that coaches have very little ways to affect the emotional tenor of a game as it's being played. Players, on the other hand, are the ones playing it, and they can swing momentum by making legitimately good basketball plays. Toughness is a nebulously defined trait, but it's often about the way a team plays the game rather than how often they push around members of the opposing team. Perkins, by virtue of being a good defensive center, has already made the Thunder a more imposing team. Does he really need to earn technical fouls to prove it?

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