Yesterday, the league office announced the disciplinary action that Cleveland’s LeBron James and Golden State’s Draymond Green would face following the altercation between the two stars in the waning seconds of Game 4. Green and James have been at each other’s throat in this series, and it’s far from the first time these two have exchanged words between the whistles.
The altercation started with James elbowing Green on the latter’s pick to get Curry free. Draymond took a hard flop to the floor, and LeBron took the opportunity to step over his opponent. The move was a sign of disrespect, and Green reacted. Green rose from the floor to confront James, leading to the two being separated and assessed two personal fouls. In review on the camera, it became clear that Green had brought his hand into James’ groin area, committing an act Green had been caught doing before – a cheap shot late in the game.
Green has been in this position previously, being issued flagrant fouls at an alarming rate in this postseason. He was just one away from suspension, and seemed subdued during the video of the fight, not responding to too much of James jawing after the whistle.
But the league decided this was one time too many, assessing Green a flagrant foul after review, giving him the automatic amount for a game’s suspension. The suspension comes as Golden State looks to close out Cleveland, and lock up their second championship in two years. But was it the right decision?
By letter of the law, Green was given the suspension in the right way. Per league rules, it wasn’t a suspension for the incident, it was a suspension for a combination of incidents. And that’s where Green’s critics are pointing in the league’s direction. Green had been in this place before, and he knew what he was doing. Montages on Twitter were quick to spout up of Green’s previous hits, including one on James in the prior game on a drive to the hoop. Low blows have come to define Green in this postseason, more so than his game has.
Despite Green’s struggles, he has stayed the subject of conversation. Critics called for action for an ugly hit on Steven Adams, a low kick that had NBA fans taking sides – just like this instance. For many, this suspension is retribution for what’s been going on for too long from Green.
On the other side, Green’s defenders have been loud for the need for a fair punishment for the initiating by James. It was James, critics say, that started the fight, and James who stepped over Green. For his role in the exchange, LeBron was assessed a technical, not the flagrant that Green received. The suspension also comes at weird time, with Golden State looking to close the series.
Reggie Miller, former Pacers great, has already chimed in that, “if the series was tied 2-2, you can bet Draymond wouldn’t be suspended.” And such is the argument of Green (and Warriors) supporters: the league only acted because it was the easy thing to do, and because Golden State will likely clinch anyways. And if Green is going to be assessed a penalty, James should be as well.
There’s also the faction of fans that believe that it was all a plan by James to lure Green into a reaction, and force him into a suspension for Game 5. James jawed for much of the game at Green, and even tried to pick a fight with Curry during a dead ball. James was obviously frustrated, but is it really conceivable that James would bait Green into an overreaction? Maybe it’s a stretch, but the calls for James to face punishment are certainly vociferous and understandable.
Warriors players and legends of the league have come quick to Green’s defense, with Lakers great (and Klay’s father) Mychal Thompson, Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, Matt Barnes, former Warrior Stephen Jackson, and most of the Warriors squad, to name a few, all voicing their displeasure for the choosy nature of the league for this altercation.
— scott vener (@brokemogul) June 14, 2016
Overall, league opinion is mixed. If Green misses the celebration of his teammates tonight, it’s possible that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.
But the culmination of incidences perhaps does. It’s important to remember that Green only got a flagrant one foul for this instance, but received a flagrant two and a $25,000 fine for his hit on Steven Adams. Technically, Green’s punishment was worse for the hit on Adams – it just so happened that this flagrant was one too many, and forced a suspension.
For that reason, I believe the league made the right call. The league has to show it’s serious about ridiculous behaviour on the court, and making an example out of Green for his antics is just.
Ultimately, this incident likely didn’t change the minds of fans of Green or his critics, and both sides probably have gone to their respective corners solidified in their contrasting opinions.
And for the first time, a deciding game of the NBA Finals may be more exciting due to the fireworks off the court instead of on.