We all remember Theo Pinson, the Nets rookie who became a fan favorite in Brooklyn’s unexpected playoff run back in 2018-19. He led the Nets bench in dance moves as the team won 42 games and the sixth seed in the post-season.
When he wasn’t dancing, Pinson got Long Island to the G League Finals, hitting a dagger in the conference championship with his teammates in the stands cheering him on.
FOR THE WIN #2WayPlayer Theo Pinson (@tpinsonn) drills the DEEP triple with 0.4 seconds left in OT to send the @LongIslandNets to the #GLeagueFinals! @UNC_Basketball ↗️ @LongIslandNets ↔️ @BrooklynNets pic.twitter.com/EELuEKG2or— NBA G League (@nbagleague) April 3, 2019
There was a lot of fun going around back then.
After his two years with the Nets, he’s played for Knicks and Mavericks. Despite being, by one measure, the worst offensive player in the NBA, the North Carolina product and NCAA champion keeps finding his way on to team rosters, almost always as a two-way. Why? Because it’s hard to find someone as active on the bench as he is. It’s not just the dancing or the non-stop trash talk, it’s his whole winning (in many ways) personality.
So much so that he has become a flashpoint for the league who says he and his bench mob violate “bench decorum” guidelines. It began before the playoffs when the NBA produced its ”Points of Education’’ video sent to teams before the playoffs.
In it, Pinson is singled out for his activity. As Tim MacMahon of ESPN noted, the video showed Pinson and Tim Hardaway Jr. committing “a violation of the bench decorum guidelines,” by “jumping and stomping onto the court in celebration.”
Then the fines started. On May 6, the Mavs organization was fined $25,000 for what it said were “multiple occasions” of players on the bench “encroaching upon the playing court during game action.”
They haven’t stopped. By this weekend, Marc Cuban’s substantial wallet was $175,000 lighter for “bench decorum” violations and so the Mavs owner defended his players by tweeting this out on Sunday...
The YouTube clip showed Pinson leading the NETS bench back in 2018-19, for which Brooklyn was never fined for violating something as subjective as “bench decorum.” Cuban’s point was unmistakable. His bench was being singled out. (FYI, Pinson’s most active partner back then was Jared Dudley, now a Mavs assistant under Jason Kidd.)
Pinson himself did some trash-tweeting as well.
It’s a crime to support your teammates ♂️ pic.twitter.com/y5uZj6ou73— Theo pinson (@tpinsonn) May 22, 2022
And got close to Adam Silver so he could smile and nod. And when a ref asked him to change his shirt because its colors were too close to the Warriors’, he declined.
What’s the point for Nets fans? Theo Pinson will never be mistaken for a star in the NBA but he has made the playoffs each year he’s been in the NBA (even with the Knicks!) He brings an undisputed something special to the teams he played on.
The Nets missed a lot of things last season and a player like Pinson (or Pinson himself) was one of them, someone raucous and unpredictable on the bench, someone fun. It will be difficult for Pinson to land another NBA gig next season though. With our years service, he’s ineligible for a two-way deal. But the Nets will undergo some roster changes this summer and Sean Marks has talked about bringing back “grit and grind.” There would be worse ways to get value for a vets minimum deal.