We cannot exonerate Draymond Green. His punch to the groin of Lebron James in the fourth game of the 2016 NBA Finals was wrong. Yet, he wasn’t the only one to blame for the way the situation was mishandled over the weekend.
The NBA opted to suspend Draymond for Game 5, with the retroactively issued flagrant foul pushing him over the limit for a suspension. They conveniently ignored what preceded the hit and the way it was officiated in-game.
If the NBA is going to continue to legislate emotion out of the game, they should at least be consistent. Typically run-ins like what we saw in Game 4 result in double techs. To my surprise, that didn’t occur. The refs went to the tape, ABC went to Steve Javie (to the world's dismay), and both the contact and the subsequent words were all ignored in the heat of the game. I would have been pleased if they left it there.
Of course, that didn’t happen, and it’s becoming more and more apparent that the league’s decision-makers are too far removed from the game to understand how to protect their most-valued product: the players. They think they’re pleasing the fans, but they’re really showing that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to pick up a basketball and compete. They continue to play an 82-game season, annually fumble the playoff format and award-voting, and now struggle with issuing a sufficient level of punishment.
Had the refs and the league officials reviewed the tape, LeBron would have also received at least a technical foul, and a statement would have been released regarding how the referees mishandled the entire exchange.
Instead, in a year where players received technical fouls for looks, stares, and applause, they found LeBron James (face of the league for 10+ years) completely innocent in walking over Draymond Green when there was ample space to walk around him. I cannot bring myself to believe that one of the planet’s greatest athletes failed to recognize the 6-foot-7-inch male standing on the ground beneath him. A blatant taunt like that generally warrants a technical foul or fine of some sort. So why did the NBA conveniently miss that one?