The Warriors are testing fate by calling out LeBron James
Oakland, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors will be without forward Draymond Green for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and there's not much of a principled argument anyone could make for Green to be included in the game.
Green was caught on camera hitting LeBron James in the groin in the Warriors' Game 4 win Friday night in Cleveland, and while he was not called for a foul on that play, he was assessed a flagrant foul Sunday morning. (He and James both received fouls at the end of the play.)
That flagrant foul means that he'll miss Game 5 -- a possible title-clinching game for the Warriors -- because of an automatic suspension for accumulated flagrant fouls.
Green knew the ramifications of another flagrant foul, and yet he found himself in a spat with LeBron. Whether his contact with the King's jewels was intentional or not was irrelevant. Green has lost all benefit of the doubt in these playoffs thanks to repeated crotch-shot incidents, and it was the NBA's discretion in this case that his latest act was flagrant.
It's a disappointment for the Warriors, it's a disappointment for Green, it's a disappointment for the NBA, it's a disappointment for true basketball fans everywhere because we won't see Green on the court.
But that's no one's fault but Green's.
That is unless you ask his teammates.
The Warriors were more than happy to share their feelings about Green's suspension Sunday afternoon, and the way they tell the story, Green was a wrongly accused man who didn't deserve the punishment he received.
Multiple players claimed that they were going to "win it for Draymond" as if he was in the intensive care unit. Coach Steve Kerr, usually the coolest guy in the room, was seething during his media availability. The Warriors were ticked.
Not at Green, no. The subtext of the comments was crystal clear -- they blamed LeBron James for this.
The Warriors believe that James' outspokenness about the incident and subsequent trash talk in the Game 4 postgame press conference put undue pressure on the league to suspend Green, lest it cross one of its big stars. Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Andrew Bogut all blamed LeBron without pointing the finger -- it was a master-class in passive-aggressiveness.
Mo Speights doesn't do passive aggressive. He went all-in without a bit of nuance:
"A guy does something like that, you kind of lose respect for him ... I had a lot of respect for LeBron over his career since he was in high school. But, do things like that to get a guy suspended? That kind of disrespectful."
"It's messed to suspend a man over nothing. If somebody put they' balls on your head, what you supposed to do? ... [Expletive] are on the back of his head. It's kind of messed up man, but hey."
Klay Thompson even took a shot at James' manhood in his media availability:
"It's a man's league," Thompson said. "I guess his feelings just got hurt."
The Warriors were angry -- the linchpin of their team was suspended in the middle of their practice ahead of an NBA Finals clincher -- but the shots at LeBron, subtle or not, were foolish.
LeBron might not be able to make 3-pointers at a rate like the Splash Brothers, and his team might not be as talented or as deep as the Warriors', but Golden State is heading into Game 5 without arguably their most critical player, and they just provoked arguably the most physically dominant basketball player of all time.
The Warriors should know better. One flippant laugh from Russell Westbrook in the Western Conference Finals helped turn around a 3-1 series in the favor of Golden State.
This wasn't a laugh about poor defense either. This was straight-up disrespect of a legend.
Did LeBron likely overact to Green's comments? Of course. Forgive my callousness, but if being called a "b*tch" is all that it took to set LeBron off on a tirade about "crossing the line" and "respect," then he needs to play some pickup games in a local park sometime soon. He'll hear worse in the first 30 seconds.
But the Warriors would have been wise to let LeBron keep talking -- to let him control the narrative heading into Game 5. Instead, Golden State got in some verbal jabs ahead of the game and provoked James to respond not only in his time with the microphone but on the court as well.
It was already going to take a special effort for the Warriors to clinch an NBA title against a desperate LeBron without Draymond Green, but now the Warriors have angered one of the greatest to ever play the game.
The Warriors might be on the verge of a second-straight title, but they haven't won anything yet, and they know how easy a 3-1 series can turn. For a team that rarely makes mistakes, this has the chance of being a big one.