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How the Pacers may have censored an NSFW play

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Welcome to the first edition of Cream of the Crop!

Original images (left to right): Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports; Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

(Cream of the Crop is a recurring series highlighting something super cool that hasn’t been talked about enough. And, yes, we realize that there is more than corn in Indiana, but this is Indy Cornrows and you have to let us live.)

Four-letter words are relatively commonplace in the throes of NBA action, but the context in which Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson was caught on camera shouting, “What the F—!” near the end of the third quarter of last Saturday’s game against the Indiana Pacers was anything but.

Spencer Dinwiddie had been whistled for a holding foul — his fourth personal — just prior to when the casual f-bomb was dropped, but he didn’t put up an argument over the call, the Pacers weren’t in the bonus, and the Nets still had the opportunity to hold for the final shot of the quarter. Atkinson, likewise, doesn’t appear to be aggrieved, nor does it look as though he is attempting to mutter under his breath. Instead, it is almost as if he projects the vulgarity onto the court matter-of-factly, perhaps even with practical purpose.

After all, this isn’t the first time an opposing coach cursed during a game against the Pacers without any discernible provocation.

**Jumps into Wayback Machine***

The year is 2015, and Dave Joerger, then head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, is using Atkinson’s exact same swear phrase of choice to call out Indiana’s next move by name.

Here’s what triggered the expletive:

A sidelines out of bounds play designed for the four (preferably a power fauxward) to reverse the ball to the shooting guard for an open three on the wing. Once Paul George inbounds the ball to Ian Mahinmi at the elbow, he dashes around a backscreen set by George Hill at the same time as Monta Ellis — albeit somewhat halfheartedly — cuts around Jordan Hill. The bulkier Hill then receives the pass from Mahinmi, who sets a downscreen to free up the slimmer Hill, like so:

Notice, however, that with Joerger having profanely made the defensive play call, George Hill’s man is already hugging him in anticipation of Mahinmi’s screen, which results in Hill barely meeting the pass and being run off the line after not doing much to sell the action.

**Cues sad trombone “wah, wah, wah” sound effect**

After being perceived as vulgar, Joerger reportedly told press row, “It’s really called ‘What the F—.’ It’s a Lakers play.”

**Jumps back into Wayback Machine and sets course for 2010**

Lo and behold, deep in the heart of KobeStan, exists this well-timed and better executed example of Kobe drilling a game-winning three out of the very same play.

Perhaps more notable than the set’s heritage, though, is that Phil Jackson was assisted by Brian Shaw who assisted Frank Vogel who was later assisted by Nate McMillan who is now head coach of the Pacers, thus providing a potential lineage for the foul-mouthed terminology.

Fast forward to today, and the film shows that Atkinson was indeed witness to a refracted carbon copy of the initial setup of WTF prior to when he uttered those three magic words.

Unlike in 2015, however, it appears as though the Pacers subtlety adjusted on the fly once they knew they were made, effectively censoring the NSFW play.

Rather than cutting to the wing for the inbounds pass, Bojan Bogdanovic quickly spun around and set a screen to shake Tyreke Evans loose.

Then, almost like an air traffic controller, McDermott waved Bogdanovic to the corner and motioned for a cross screen so he could clear to the opposite wing and make way for Evans and O’Quinn to flow into pick-and-roll action.

As soon as Evans managed to lure multiple defenders to the straight-line drive like moths to the flame, he laid the ball off to Joseph in the same spot that “WTF” would’ve called for the pesky guard to set the initial decoy backscreen for the inbounder. At that point, instinctual baseline drive, baseline drift generated a wide open corner three for McDermott, which barely missed the mark.

Regardless of whether the initial set-up was a Trojan Horse for “WTF” or what followed was an ad-lib, there’s no denying that this is some incredibly well-coordinated movement from a lineup that prior to Saturday had logged exactly zero minutes together.

WTF, indeed.

Now, if they could just cutback on the hapless turnovers....