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OKLAHOMA CITY – Draymond Green will not be suspended for Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, and, yes, the NBA got it right. Yeah, sure, it looked like Green unleashed a punter-style kick to Steven Adams' groin, the second time in as many games Green has assaulted Adams' reproductive area. A suspension could have been justified. Yet the magnitude of the moment was likely a variable, and giving Green the benefit of the doubt here was appropriate.
"After a thorough investigation that included review of all available video angles and interviews with the players involved and the officials working the game, we have determined that Green's foul was unnecessary and excessive and warranted the upgrade and fine," said Kiki VanDeWeghe, the NBA vice president of basketball operations and de facto Dean of Discipline. "During a game, players – at times – flail their legs in an attempt to draw a foul, but Green's actions in this case warranted an additional penalty."
It's a slap on the wrist for Green, and really: Who isn't happy about that? Perhaps those living in Oklahoma, or at least the 18,000-plus piled into Chesapeake Arena on Sunday, who watched Adams crumple to the court and chanted, "Kick him out," as the referees reviewed the video. They are understandably frustrated, but the millions hoping to see two conference titans clash at full strength are not.
The NBA is loath to assert itself in situations like this. The backlash can be brutal. Remember 2007? When the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs went at it in the Western Conference semifinals? Game 4, clock running out and a Robert Horry hip check sent Steve Nash careening into the scorer's table. Amar'e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw left the bench – though never fully entered the fray – resulting in both being suspended for Game 5. The Suns lost, lost again in Game 6 and Phoenix's best chance to win a title was gone.
It's true, there is precedence for groin kicks yielding suspensions. It did in 2012, when Dwyane Wade booted Ramon Sessions, and again in 2015, when James Harden caught LeBron James below the belt. But the NBA is not beholden to precedence, and the idea of benching Green in such a critical game had to have been discomforting. The league often looks for reasons not to suspend, as it did when Boston's Isaiah Thomas clipped Atlanta's Dennis Schroeder in the head during Game 3 of the Celtics-Hawks first-round series. There was a sliver of doubt of intent there, just as there is now.
Green will play, and now comes the hard part. "I think we can beat them with or without [him]," Adams said on Monday, and why wouldn't he believe that? Oklahoma City is fresh off a historic beating of the NBA's best team, a game they led by 41 points and won by 28. Green was a staggering minus-43 in Game 3, connecting on only one of his nine attempts. The NBA will let Green play on Tuesday. It's up to him, and the Warriors, to play better.
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