Love and war of words: Warriors verbally battle with LeBron James
Word spread quickly of Warriors forward Draymond Green's suspension from Game 5 of the NBA Finals for his dust-up with Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, and because opinions are like punches to another man's groin when he knocks you down and steps over you, everyone has one brewing inside them.
Former NBA hothead Stephen Jackson took to Instagram to share his thoughts: "Guess I'll be rocking [Draymond's] jersey to the game tomorrow. You know I always root for the bad guys, man. There wasn't any blood drawn, nobody got hurt. You wait until the Finals to suspend him — with all the other stuff that happened — yeah, all right. I'm rocking with the bad guy on this one, though. I think that's some B.S."
Current NBA hothead Matt Barnes offered his hottest of takes on Twitter (sic): "Lebron knows god damn well he didn't need to step over that man like that! Funny how the NBA #PicksAndChooses #Bullsh!t."
The notion that James deserved a combo punch to both his groin and the air occupying space by his shoulders, just because he took a step — Iverson-style — over Green after he'd already tossed him to the ground is a popular opinion shared by NBA on TNT's Charles Barkley and ESPN's Stephen A. Smith.
And it entirely misses the point.
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It's been three weeks since Green's kick to Thunder center Steven Adams' groin resulted in an upgraded Flagrant 2, pushing him within one flagrant point of an automatic one-game suspension. That came after Green body-slammed Rockets forward Michael Beasley and before he tripped Oklahoma City's Enes Kanter. So, Green isn't being suspended specifically for retaliating against LeBron, but because he can't stop being a figurative dink. Or, to put a finer point on it, he can't stop hitting people in the literal dink.
There are those who will say the NBA shouldn't try to castrate Green for simply playing with an edge, because to do so robs us of one of the game's most enjoyably emotional players — and, besides, LeBron started it. There are those who will say Green's punch wouldn't have even warranted a personal foul in their day. And there are those who will say the league should exhibit leniency for no other reason than the magnitude of the situation — or even that Green's Game 5 suspension is Adam Silver's way of extending an otherwise boring championship series — but the solution is easy: Stop punching people in the groin.
Is that an unreasonable request? If you ask the Warriors, then yes. Yes it is.
Golden State's Mo Speights summed up his team's take most succinctly when he told ESPN.com's Ethan Strauss: "It's messed to suspend a man over nothing. If somebody put they balls on your head, what are you supposed to do? Balls are on the back of his head. It's kind of messed up man, but hey."
Teammates Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry expressed similar sentiments, respectively saying, "If someone walks over me, I'm getting up the same way," and, "I would've probably done the same thing."
But neither Speights nor Bogut and Curry would've been suspended for retaliating like Green, because they had not previously body-slammed Beasley and kicked Adams in the groin. There is value in standing up to someone who's trying to emasculate you, if only to make it clear you will not be bullied, but Green had already put himself in the unfortunate position of having to weigh that against the value of potentially getting suspended for Game 5, even in the heat of the moment. Even as James stepped over him.
It's just as easy to take up space in LeBron's head and hit him with a verbal equivalent of a punch to the groin when you're armed with a 3-1 series lead, as Warriors guard Klay Thompson proved on Sunday.
"I don't know how the man feels, but obviously people have feelings and people's feelings get hurt even if they're called a bad word" Thompson told reporters of James' postgame reaction to a verbal exchange with Green following the physical confrontation. "I guess his feelings just got hurt. We've all been called plenty of bad words on the basketball court before. Some guys just react to it differently. All I can say for myself, individually, I just try to ignore it or just let it fuel the fire, but I don't carry it with me when the job is done."
This being an off day in the NBA Finals and the media getting their chance to sit in with both sides, a reporter naturally asked James about Thompson's "I guess his feelings just got hurt" commentary.
LeBron James reacts to Klay Thompson saying his feelings were hurt by Draymond Green's trash-talk...#NBAFinals https://t.co/3zuvyKwYwU
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 12, 2016
James didn't bite. "It's so hard to take the high road," said the man who baited Green into the Game 5 suspension. "I've been doing it for 13 years. It's so hard to continue to do it, and I'm going to do it again."
Ayesha Curry, wife of the two-time reigning NBA MVP, found the irony in LeBron's "high road" comments.
High Road. invisible bridge used to step over said person when open floor is available left to right.
— Ayesha Curry (@ayeshacurry) June 12, 2016
Interestingly, one of LeBron's own teammates, Kevin Love, seemed to take Mrs. Curry's side on this one.
"It's tough to say," the Cavs forward told reporters when asked about step-over moves like LeBron's on Green. "You don't see it too much, but yeah, I think it is looked at as a form of disrespect. But I don't know. It's seldom seen. That's tough to answer. I don't know."
The Warriors may have won the war of words, but LeBron claimed victory in the battle of the bullies, because once Golden State pulled away Friday, the best chance the Cavaliers had of pushing this series back to Cleveland and potentially forcing a Game 7 in Oakland was to get Green suspended for Game 5.
And Green couldn't help himself from hitting another man in the groin. Again.
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is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach