OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Through all of the criticism and accusations of dirty play, Draymond Green vowed to keep pushing as hard as he possibly could to help deliver another championship to Golden State.
That win-at-all-costs mentality has suddenly opened the door for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to get back into the NBA Finals.
Green was suspended for Game 5 on Monday night after the league assessed a Flagrant 1 foul for striking James in the groin during a scuffle in the closing minutes of the Warrior’s Game 4 victory on Friday night.
James and Green got tangled up on the play, and James stepped over Green as the two got up — a move widely viewed as a show of disrespect in league circles. Green then swiped at James’ groin in retaliation and threw another jab at the four-time MVP after some trash talk that did not connect.
“There’s no way you can say this is an acceptable act,” Kiki VanDeWeghe, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations, told AP in a phone interview.
Especially for a player like Green, who has gained a reputation as a chippy player during Golden State’s run through the playoffs. After a foul and fine-filled first three rounds, Green entered the finals one flagrant foul or two technicals short of a mandated suspension.
“History probably didn’t help Draymond,” Warriors center Andrew Bogut said. “When they reviewed it, that’s probably what helped them get to their decision.”
Commissioner Adam Silver said before the start of the rematch with Cleveland that the Competition Committee would in the offseason be reviewing Green’s penchant for wildly flailing his legs on jump shots and rebounds, putting the hard-nosed, emotional leader of the defending champions on notice.
Green was given a Flagrant-2 foul and fined $25,000 for kicking Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams in the groin during the Western Conference finals and picked up a Flagrant-1 for throwing Rockets forward Michael Beasley to the ground in the first round. Green also kicked Cavs guard Kyrie Irving in the chest — inadvertently, Green said — in Game 1 of the finals, which was not penalized by the league.
“You have to do what you think is right for the play,” VanDeWeghe said, “and unfortunately Draymond put himself in this position.”
Golden State leads the series 3-1 and has easily been the better team in this series. But losing a player of Green’s caliber could balance the scales just enough for Cleveland.
Green is a plus-71 in the last two NBA Finals, serving as the heartbeat of the Warriors defense and a critical playmaker on the other end of the court.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr spoke to Green earlier in the postseason about keeping his emotions in check, but they again got the better of him at a crucial time.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” Bogut said. “I’ve been in the same situation. I’ve been suspended before. I think it’s like a lottery decision, like the draft. They just pull out a ping-pong ball and make a decision.”
The after-the-fact technical levied against James isn’t unprecedented. It’s the fourth assessed by the NBA in the last two postseasons.