Sam Cassell 'honored' by dance imitations

Maybe it isn't the most pressing mystery in the NBA when the Philadelphia 76ers are already halfway to the 10 wins some thought they'd never reach ... and when the $190 million Brooklyn Nets look so curiously lifeless ... and when the next bankable guesstimate on Kobe Bryant’s return date from a torn Achilles tendon will be the first.

So perhaps I'm in the minority here, but this does (at least for me) qualify as one of the burning questions of November:

What does Sam Cassell think of all these fines for the Sam Cassell Dance?

It was ESPN's own Bill Simmons, I believe, who dubbed it Sam Cassell's Testicle Dance years back. You surely know the guts of the story: Cassell is credited with popularizing the practice of celebrating an especially dagger-y shot by lowering his hands down and cupping them in a manner that suggests he has extra-large cojones, bringing to life the trademark call we've heard for years from Bill Raftery whenever a college kid drains the clutchest of jumpers.


And this week, at last, I got my chance. Seeing the Washington Wizards these days usually means, first and foremost, that you're there to check out the fast-blossoming Bradley Beal, but my mission was finding out how Cassell feels about the $15,000 fines this month dished out to Brooklyn's Andray Blatche and Milwaukee's Caron Butler.

"Obscene gesture?" Cassell bellowed, shaking his head disapprovingly.

I'm guessing you don't need much help to picture the look of wide-eyed, bad-call dismay on Cassell's face when he said it.

The truth is that Cassell, now that he's fully ensconced in the NBA's coaching ranks in his sixth season as an assistant on the Wizards' bench, wasn't about to publicly protest as vociferously as he might have if he were still playing. But he left me with little doubt that he's as unimpressed by the new policy as Butler was.

"I think expression of emotion is a huge part of the game of basketball," Butler recently told the Sporting News' Sean Deveney. "If you hit a big shot [and] you silence a crowd, it is very emotional. I am 33 years old. I still want to share my emotion during a game. So I want to say, 'That was a big shot, that was gutsy.' So I did the big cojones thing and got fined. It is what it is. I wouldn't take it back because that is how I was feeling at the time. It is just expressing yourself. I just think the emotion ... you should be able to express it in that moment."

The league office, of course, disagrees. Fines for the gesture actually started during last spring's playoffs, when then-Chicago Bulls guard Marco Belinelli was fined $15,000 for the same offense.

Yet my sense is that the NBA continues to penalize tributes to Cassell's signature move because it thinks it should, in a bow to political correctness, more than folks in the league's New York City offices on Fifth Avenue really find the dance to be so offensive or lewd.

Whether players should even be using Cassell's move after all these years is another matter. Some would argue that what Blatche and Butler did is a crime, if anything, against originality.

But we can also pass along that Cassell definitely doesn't see it that way. He says he's legitimately "honored" anytime he sees someone bust out the Testicle Dance.

"When I saw Kobe [Bryant] do it [in the 2009 playoffs], I knew it was big-time," Cassell said.