MIAMI (AP) — Draymond Green has a history, and in this case it seems to have been helpful.
He’s a kicker.
Only a minute before the overly excitable Golden State forward kicked Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams in the groin area during Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday night, his leg flailing upward either clumsily or intentionally depending on perspective, he was under the basket as teammate Stephen Curry missed a 3-pointer.
Green went up and tried to tip in the rebound. He missed.
Here’s the notable part of that otherwise nondescript play: His right leg went up in similar fashion that time as well, a reaction easily unnoticed because no defender was within reach of his size 15 foot, nobody got kicked and nobody ended up in a heap on the court in pain afterward.
So Green has done this before. Lots of times, it turns out. There was an aggregated bunch of clips posted to social media showing Green’s legs going all sorts of directions after shots and drives, sometimes making contact and sometimes not. And Green does have a reputation for being aggressive, like most great defenders do. He’s the sort of player that doesn’t mind being called a pest.
But dirty or suspension-worthy?
In this case, damning video and the fact that he got Adams in the groin area in Game 2 as well notwithstanding, it didn’t seem so and the NBA agreed. So after spending the bulk of Monday deliberating what to do next, the decision came down that Green will be eligible to play in Game 4 of the series Tuesday in Oklahoma City.
(By the way, the Thunder lead the series 2-1 — easily overlooked amid Kickgate.)
Predictably and immediately, there was Twitter outrage because Twitter’s favorite thing is outrage. Green wasn’t suspended, yet Cleveland’s Dahntay Jones got a one-game ban just one day earlier for striking Toronto’s Bismack Biyombo in the groin area. And the NBA surely knew that letting Green play in Game 4 would get conspiracy theorists to say that the league not having a one-size-fits-all approach was done to favor the champions.
Green is a starter, an elite defender for the Warriors. Golden State needs him.
Jones is a backup who has scored 20 points all season. Cleveland hardly needs him.
Yet in this case, it’s Green’s history that oddly enough seemed to work in his favor. He’s hardly a poster child for good behavior; he leads the NBA in postseason technicals this year, and tied for third-most in the regular season in that department. He’s also one more flagrant away from an automatic suspension in these playoffs. But for now, he plays on.
“During a game, players — at times — flail their legs in an attempt to draw a foul,” NBA Executive Vice President for Basketball Operations Kiki VanDeWeghe said in the release announcing the league’s decision on Green.
He’s right, but that might not have been what this was.
This seemed like just more crazy-leggedness from Green.
He didn’t get away scot-free. The foul was upgraded to a flagrant-2 and will cost Green $25,000. The upgrade to the flagrant-2 was the NBA’s way of saying he should have been ejected Sunday, although making him stick around for the rest of Oklahoma City’s 133-105 win was probably a harsher punishment than getting to watch it from the sanctity of the locker room would have been.
The Thunder were phenomenal in Game 3. Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan has more than held his own against Rick Carlisle, Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr — all champion coaches, all coaches of the year — so far in his first NBA playoffs. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are playing off each other maybe as well as ever. A different role player seems to step up nightly, Adams included.
They have the Warriors in trouble, without question.
But of course, Green kicking Adams in the groin area wound up being a much bigger story than the Thunder kicking the Warriors in the mouth. And if Green and his teammates don’t figure out a solution soon, they’ll be kicking themselves while the Thunder play in the NBA Finals.
Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Find him at treynoldsap.org or at http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds