Draymond Green's worst game might prevent him from playing the next game.
The Oklahoma City Thunder throttled the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 on Sunday night, a result currently overshadowed by this bizarre, high-leverage situation. Perhaps the surging Thunder win this series with or without a Green suspension, but there exists the possibility that a Western Conference finals -- and subsequent NBA Finals -- gets swung by something as absurd as the NBA's interpretation of whether a man intended to hit another man in the nethers.
This is a point on which reasonable people can agree: We don't know if Green, the Warriors' All-Star forward, meant to kick Steven Adams in the groin.
Some are convinced, based on replay footage, that Green was aiming. Others are convinced, based on replay footage, that this was incidental contact, incurred as Green was flailing for a foul. Only Green truly knows what his intentions were, and that puts the NBA's legislative body in an uncomfortable position (though a position likely far more comfortable than Adams' pose with 5:57 remaining in the first half).
It appears to be a situation where one's allegiances dictate perspective, with the Thunder and Warriors equally adamant in their conflicting interpretations. Golden State coach Steve Kerr went so far as to state that the initial flagrant foul should be rescinded. "This stuff happens all the time," Kerr said. "[Russell] Westbrook kicks his feet out on every 3, and there is contact. I mean, that's just part of the game. So I don't understand how that can be deemed a flagrant 1. I think it should be rescinded."
Westbrook, referencing a Game 2 play where a Euro step by Green ended in Adams doubled over, believed otherwise, saying, "That's two times in the last two games. I don't think you can keep [hitting] somebody in their private areas."
Somewhat predictably, Green, his voice quavering a touch more than usual, professed innocence. Again, Green -- who shot a dismal 1-for-9 in Game 3 -- is the only one who knows the truth. But, of course, he's an unreliable narrator.
What's odd about a play that might swing the championship is that nobody, save for Adams, actually reacted to it in real time. The other players on the court started walking away, initially oblivious to the cause of Adams' pain. Thunder coach Billy Donovan stared ahead quizzically until the giant video screen showed a replay that left the crowd aghast. Officials took to the replay booth, resulting in Green's flagrant 1.
It's certainly an incident fitting the replay era, wherein something we weren't aware of in the moment becomes a source of fervently disputed fascination and retroactive policing. In these matters, slow-motion replay almost never helps the case of the defendant. When split seconds get extended into seconds, it's easy to interpolate intent on a situation that may have had none.
While Green may have indeed intended to kick Adams in a vulnerable place (again, nobody knows), the following arguments represent a layering of absurdity on an already absurd situation.
Absurdity 1: Dahntay Jones was suspended, so Draymond Green must be suspended
The Cleveland Cavaliers' Jones, a player whom Green once characterized as someone who "don't play," has been suspended from Game 4 of the East finals because of possibly accidental contact with Bismack Biyombo's groin. The reigning idea is that Jones' suspension equals precedent for Green's and that you can't punish them any differently.
This line of logic ignores how the punishments aren't close to similar.
Jones only participates in garbage time, so the NBA is making a decision -- to keep Jones out of the game -- that Cavs coach Tyronn Lue would likely make anyway. And by merely suspending Jones, the league was doing him a massive favor. The league could have added an additional fine, for instance.
Given Jones' particular salary situation, a suspension results in an $80.17 fine. That's not a typo. The upshot of all this is that Jones is out 80 bucks.
So a common argument today is that an All-Star should miss an important Western Conference finals game because a 12th man in another series ultimately suffered the cost of a parking ticket. While reasonable people can certainly make the case that punishments shouldn't depend on a player's status, a player's status certainly informs the gravity of punishment.
Absurdity 2: This is Draymond's second strike
Another rhetorical arrow aimed at Green is the notion that he has done this before. This is Westbrook's "that's two times in the last two games" argument. The idea is that the Game 2 knock to Adams' groin implicates Green, that it increases the chance that he's guilty in Game 3. In other words, this is a pattern.
While reasonable people can certainly believe Green's Game 3 kick to be intentional, it's ridiculous to make the same claim about Game 2. That incident happened with Green running full speed while completing a Euro step that resulted in a made floater. While NBA players are incredible athletes, nobody is good enough to cloak a knee to the groin within a sprinting Euro step and made shot in the heat of a competitive playoff game.
Green might be a legendary troll, but he's not a wizard. If he is to be suspended for something, it should be Game 3 and Game 3 alone.
Absurdity 3: We might be talking about this for years
The 2007 San Antonio Spurs were likely better than the 2007 Phoenix Suns, and yet the ridiculous suspensions the Suns suffered echo across time. Why? Because, like the intent of Green's kick, we'll never actually know if the Spurs were better.
By suspending Amar'e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for (understandably) leaving the bench after Robert Horry knocked Steve Nash into the scorer's table in Game 4, then-commissioner David Stern effectively ended that second-round playoff series. What followed two rounds later was the least-watched NBA Finals in the network era and years of recriminations out of Phoenix. In short, many angry fans and a nadir in league popularity.
That would be an unfortunate outcome to replicate, especially since it seems Oklahoma City might be wholly capable of winning this series sans help. The Thunder obliterated the Warriors 133-105 in Game 3, killing Golden State's vaunted "Death Lineup." While Thunder players will gladly take a Green suspension if the league offers it, the irony is that this particular advantage might end up robbing them of rightful credit.
In any event, this whole scenario is a reminder of how deliciously ludicrous sports can be, and how a whole season might turn on something as crazy as the disputed intent behind something that looks like an "America's Funniest Home Videos" clip. The NBA will make its call, and everyone will have to live with the results.
Now, if the Warriors end up losing after one of their All-Stars gets suspended, they might be bitter, but not entirely free of blame. With sloppy play in Game 1 and porous transition defense in Game 3, they've put themselves in a position where something like this can happen. Not only that, but Green has been pushing the boundaries -- he's currently not far from earning a suspension based on technicals and flagrants alone.
So the Warriors await Green's fate, shortly before the most important game of their season. Perhaps they could have avoided this risky situation, but here they are. It's the height of sports absurdity: After chasing history en route to 73 wins, the Warriors might need the NBA to assume that what happened in Draymond Green's head had nothing to do with what happened to Steven Adams' groin.