But did the N.B.A.’s punishment fit the crime(s)?

By Andrew J. Pridgen

Golden State Warriors power forward Draymond Green, a presumptive candidate for the N.B.A. Finals’ MVP should the Warriors go on to win, is suspended for Game 5 in Oakland Monday night after he was assessed a flagrant foul 1 by the league for his actions in Game 4.

With less than three minutes to go game four Friday, Green and LeBron James got into a skirmish around midcourt. The two forwards did their do-si-doing and Green eventually fell to the hardwood. James intentionally stepped over Green in a show of dominance and Green swung his arm toward James’s groin. Once up, the pair continued to engage in their version of the African Anteater ritual bumping and grinding under the rim.

Sunday, the league assessed James with a technical foul for his part in physically taunting Green. No further punishment will be levied against James. The commissioner also announced Sunday Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue has been fined $25,000 for his criticism of the officiating after his team’s Game 4 loss.

The question is, did Green’s the punishment fit the crime?

Though this N.B.A. postseason has been rife with physical play: Detroit’s Andre Drummond (elbow to James’ head), Boston’s Isaiah Thomas left to Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder’s face) and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (hand to Dallas’s Justin Anderson’s head) all avoided suspension after making similar questionable contact with an opposing player — no player has found himself the subject of more controversy than Green.

In the Western Conference Finals, the league considered suspending Green for a kick to the groin of Oklahoma City center Steven Adams during Game 3. The league decided not to suspend Green and Golden State, down 3-1, overcame and won in 7.

At the time, Green was assessed a flagrant 2 and fined $25,000 for kicking Adams. He also received a flagrant 1 for throwing down Houston Rockets forward Michael Beasley in the first round.

With Sunday’s decision to retroactively pin a flagrant 1 on Green, the Warriors’ forward earned his fourth flagrant foul point of the playoffs, which carries an automatic suspension.

“The cumulative points system is designed to deter flagrant fouls in our game,” NBA vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe said in a statement. “While Draymond Green’s actions in Game 4 do not merit a suspension as a standalone act, the number of flagrant points he has earned triggers a suspension for Game 5.”

Similar incidents to Green’s last two flagrants include a scuffle from December 2012 when Miami’s Dwayne Wade and Charlotte (now Washington) guard Ramon Sessions got into it. Wade was suspended one game for “flailing his leg and making contact with” the groin of Sessions.

The league does have the right to upgrade no-calls or fouls to flagrant fouls after the game. This season Atlanta’s Jeff Teague hit Minnesota’s Nemanja Bjelica and had the foul upgraded from a flagrant 1 to a flagrant 2.

According to the league rulebook, a flagrant 1 foul involves excessive or severe contact during a live ball, including especially when a player, “…swings an elbow and makes illegal, non-excessive contact with an opponent above the shoulders…” A flagrant 2 foul involves unsportsmanlike conduct that is extreme in nature, or excessive or severe contact during a dead ball, including, “…when a player swings an elbow excessively and makes contact above the shoulders.” Fighting is also considered a flagrant 2 foul.

As stated, VanDeWeghe and his surrogates recommended Green’s suspension not as a one-off but as a culmination of events. Though James was the instigator in this latest case (and then again pushing Steph Curry during an inbounds play less than a minute later) it can be argued that Green’s constant physical and verbal harangues are not taken to kindly by the league’s superstars or the front office.

The All-Star forward’s jersey grabs, arm bars and trash talking continues the lineage of other greats: Jordan, Pippen, Laimbeer and Bird, who played both the physical and mental game to perfection.

But that was a different era. Commissioner Adam Silver made it clear Sunday that that type of play will no longer be tolerated — and that statement comes with huge ramifications that go far beyond the $140k in salary Green will surrender for the suspension.

Green is not allowed in the building as the Warriors attempt to clinch their second straight NBA title Monday — ostensibly making him the Warriors’ Timmy Lupus. Taking something like that away from a competitor like Green is much more than a slap on the wrist.

It’s a kick to the groin.

 

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