In a world where butt-slaps are considered kind, Draymond Green ran the risk of being a serial criminal — in a sporting sense — with this action on Friday night.
The result of their entanglement, after it continued under the basket, was a double-personal for LeBron James and Green. No one in the arena knew that Green swung and might have connected with James’ groin at the time, but James described his unhappiness with Green after Game 4.
“Oh, nothing got me going. You know, Draymond just said something that I don’t agree with. I’m all cool with the competition. I’m all fine with that, but some of the words that came out of his mouth were a little bit overboard, and being a guy with pride, a guy with three kids and a family, things of that nature, some things just go overboard and that’s where he took it, and that was it,” James said in a monotone that masked the fact that he was whining bitterly.
A minute later, a reporter brought up Green’s reaction to James stepping over him as if he was a sleeping dog in the living room.
“Well, I don’t know what should happen. It’s not my call. That’s the league office,” tattled James. “They’ll take a look at it. We all saw it in the locker room. You know, like I said, as a competitor, I love going against Draymond, and I’m all about going out there and leaving it out on the floor. But when it gets a little bit more than what it should be, that’s what caused me to have words with him.
“So as far as the play, I think the league will take a look at it. Obviously our locker room has seen it, and we’ll see what they say.”
Does James expect the league to take action against Green? After all, one more flagrant foul and Green is suspended for a game. In the NBA Finals.
“No,” James said.
Nor should they, despite James’ clear hope that the NBA will come to his and his team’s aid.
It’s been a tough postseason for packages. A nearly useless role player for the Cavs, Dahntay Jones, punched Bismack Biyombo in the boys and got a one-game suspension. Matthew Dellavedova angered Andre Iguodala when his attempt at a steal ended up with his hand landing on an uncomfortable area for Iguodala. And Green kicked Steven Adams in the junk, one game after kneeing him in the same area, causing a 24-hour will-they-or-won’t-they suspend him watch that ended up with Green’s flagrant 1 getting upgraded to a flagrant 2.
In effect, the NBA said “watch it, buddy” to Green.
And that’s why there’s a chance that Green might not play Game 5. Giving Green a retroactive flagrant would do two things that would seemingly be in the NBA’s best interest.
- They can’t be happy with all of the twig-and berries talk during what should be the best time of their season. The NBA wants the players to stop thinking this kind of contact is OK.
- Suspending Green could go a long way toward extending the series.
However, if the NBA considers everything that went into that conflict, they would be fools to suspend Green.
— James damn near lost his mind in the fourth quarter. Whether due to the fatigue Tyronn Lue caused by only finding 2:27 of rest for James throughout the game, or Golden State’s defense, or Golden State’s expanding lead, or James only attempting four free throws in a game where he tried time and again to force the issue inside, or the lack of success James and Kyrie Irving had as they tried to hero-ball the Cavs back into the game, or a combination of those factors, it was clear that James was as frustrated as we’ve ever seen him. He got into it with Green and Stephen Curry, and James was the instigator each time.
— James knows exactly what he did when he stepped over Green. With no way to assert his dominance during a game that was slipping away, James went to a bully tactic, and Green wanted James’ body as far away as possible during that moment. The response looked bad in slow-motion, but NBA games aren’t played in slow-motion.
— Green’s reaction didn’t appear to be calculated. He was throwing his hand at whatever part of James he could hit. That’s not necessarily something to be lauded, but as everyone said after the game, “It’s the Finals.” It’s a contact sport, and if Green’s hand happened to hit James’ hamstring, or his rear end, no one would care.
If the NBA gives Green a flagrant, they’d be taking away an All-NBA player from the Finals with a suspension that never would’ve occurred even a few years ago, all over a situation in which James wasn’t exactly an innocent bystander and didn’t seem to suffer an awful lot of pain. When Biyombo and Adams were struck in the nethers, they both fell to the ground in that familiar “Oh man, I’m nauseous now” pose. James didn’t even know he was hit in the groin until Brian Windhorst showed him the clip on his phone, according to Windhorst. Who knows, maybe Green hit shorts and shorts only.
This is absolutely ridiculous, of course. Guys hit each other all of the time in regular season games, and almost anything goes in the NBA Finals. Does the NBA think that Green is obsessed with violent contact toward his opponents’ genitals? If so, a suspension may be forthcoming. But if they suspend Green for this, they’re effectively saying that it’s OK to toss a man to the floor, look down at him and step over him.