OAKLAND, Calif. – Hours after a sanctioned suspension from the NBA, Draymond Green sat inside the locker room inside the Golden State Warriors’ practice facility, working the phones. The fearlessness and swagger of Green drives these Warriors, but his retaliation to LeBron James late Friday in Game 4, while the Warriors had a double-digit lead, has placed his franchise in a most precarious position. Golden State will try to close out the NBA Finals on Monday without the most versatile two-way player on its roster.
The NBA announced the decision on Sunday to hit Green with a flagrant-1 – his fourth flagrant foul point – after he struck James in the groin late in the Warriors' 108-97 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4.
Green is strongly pushing to attend Game 5 of the Finals and watch the game inside Oracle Arena despite the suspension barring him from entering the arena, sources told The Vertical. He would likely face a substantial fine from the league if he were to attend the game. Green wants to find a route into the arena, and his reps are discussing the logistics of attending with the league and the players’ union.
For the Warriors, who have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, they remain in control with two of the final three games at home. Privately, several players shook their heads on Sunday afternoon, acknowledging the bait job out of James on the court and then in the public eye. Some, including Klay Thompson, went direct: LeBron took the altercation with Green overly personal.
“I guess his feelings got hurt,” Thompson said of James.
James, in turn, laughed when asked about Thompson’s comments and claimed Green’s play was intentional.
Green’s swipe toward James’ groin occurred with the Warriors leading the Cleveland Cavaliers 96-86 with 2:48 remaining – a basically meaningless altercation. As Warriors players heard from friends and family, there is a plan: Just let it go. For any one else, this applies. Not for Draymond Green, a self-made superstar, a second-round draft choice who found success through edginess and sharp basketball instincts. This is Draymond, teammates said Sunday. You live with all of him; no in between.
Now, Cleveland has the motivation and personnel to extend this series. Victory inside Oracle Arena will remain an arduous task for the Cavaliers. Andre Iguodala – a candidate for Finals MVP – could be a strong option for the Warriors’ starting lineup.
Green needed to handle this battle with James differently: jump from the push and walk over, come chest to chest with LeBron and allow players to separate them. Every replay shows James pushed Green to the floor and stepped over him. Neither player had intentions to fight, and yet the double-smack – one to James’ groin area, one to his general upper body – and his history with Steven Adams in the Western Conference finals warranted the league to upgrade his flagrant foul points.
“It hasn’t been that much of a distraction for us with Draymond’s situation,” Stephen Curry said Sunday. “It’s unfortunate that two situations have made people judge his character and intent. It sucks that he’s not going to be out on the floor with us.”
Added Andrew Bogut: “It’s the next man up for us. [Coach] Steve [Kerr] has done a great job instilling confidence on our team throughout the roster.”
Even more, the predicament has elevated the onus on Kerr to place a rotation player on the inactive list. League rules dictate that Green must remain active, and as of Sunday afternoon, two prominent names emerged as possibilities to be inactive along with Kevon Looney: Ian Clark or Leandro Barbosa, sources said.
“The inactive player will be the biggest discussion because we use everybody,” Kerr said. “We have used every single guy during the playoffs. They have all been important, and so that’s going to be a really difficult decision.”
From Curry to Thompson, Kerr to Bogut, the Warriors had been answering for Green’s altercation with James. Green stayed back in the Warriors’ locker room, and the push toward victory began. Green appears on a path to find a way inside Oracle for Game 5 as the Golden State Warriors need one of their leaders but will be without their best two-way force on the court. This promises to stay with Green. One win from back-to-back championships, and Green’s retaliation has barred him from the moment. It’s next man up for Golden State.
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