Draymond Green checking Lebron's inseam length
Draymond Green checking Lebron’s inseam length in Game 4

OK, more basketball. Game five NBA Finals. The defending champion Golden State Warriors up three games to one against the Cleveland Cavaliers, with an opportunity to close out the series at home at Oracle Arena where they had only lost two games all year. But with Draymond Green, the Warriors Mr. Everything, their heart and soul, suspended by the league office for a flagrant foul in game 4 against Lebron James — putting him over the flagrant foul limit in these playoffs — the Warriors fell to Lebron and Kyrie Irving 112 to 97 to move the series back to Cleveland for game six on Thursday night.

There are some who called BS on the league for their ex post facto ruling – “they got their thumb on the scale. They want a seven-game series” – considering that the game officials didn’t even call it a common foul in the game. But upon closer inspection – and it was easy to miss, which was Draymond’s intention – even though Lebron James initiated contact, it was Green who flicked his hand out in retaliation as he came off the floor, sending a ripple through Lebron’s private sector. That was the third such oopsy-doo to somebody’s ya-yas Green engaged in through these playoffs.  And three’s the charm, it seems.  Suspension administered.

"No, no, Draymond. Don't go there."
“No, no, Draymond. Don’t go there.”

But here’s the thing, when you take the good Draymond Green with all his emotion, all his rebounding, all his tough defense, all of his passing and scoring and three-point shooting, you also get the corresponding bad boy Draymond with all that lack of control. Heart and soul, you can’t tease one from the other.

Everyone is saying, “Oh, Draymond should have known that he was on thin ice with the refs, and dialed it back a notch so he wouldn’t cost the team a closeout game at home. He should have restrained himself.”

But it doesn’t work that way.  It’s that high emotion that makes him the great player he is, and the numb-nuts who can’t monitor his actions in real time, which puts him in jeopardy for all those flagrant fouls that now did cost to his team a game. Just happened to be a very important game.

Good Draymond and Bad Draymond cannot be separated.

So with Draymond out and game 5 gone, we have before us the possibility of history in these NBA Finals – and maybe a little payback at the same time.

Last year Lebron and the Cavs fell to the Warriors in part because Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were injured and didn’t play. Still, even with an incomplete seven-man rotation,they took the Warriors to six games in the Finals. This year the Cavs game in healthy and though the Warriors went up 3-1, now it is their health that is in question.

Bogut helped off the court after hyperextension
Bogut helped off the court after hyperextension

First, Warrior center Andrew Bogut hyper-extended his left knee last night, and it doesn’t look good he will be playing a game six or if there is a game seven. And he is their rim-protector, rebounder, and inside facilitator.  Big loss. The Warriors got pounded on second-chance points last night.

Second, though it’s been kept quiet, rumors are strong that league MVP Steph Curry is going to undergo surgery after the season, on his knee, probably.  But I saw him rubbing his right elbow throughout last night’s game, too.

Is the elbow OK?
Is the elbow OK?

Remember when he jumped out of bounds for a loose ball in the OKC series? He came away with a big edema on the underside of his shooting elbow.  He didn’t seem to be bothered by it then, but it still has his attention, and something is causing him to misfire.  He was 8 for 21, at home no less.

So if you have a compromised knee (and long distance shooting comes from your legs), and now you have at least a pesky elbow, could that be why Curry is not quite looking like his MVP self in the series?

The Cavs were depleted last year and the Warriors are limping in this year. If Lebron can somehow manage to win this series, giving him three in his career (this and the two in Miami), he would be part of the first team in history to be down 1-3 in the Finals and come all the way back to win. You think he’s legendary now?  32 times teams have been down 1-3 and failed to come all the way back. We saw Golden State do it against OKC in the Western Conference Final, so the Cavs have to think it’s at least possible. Here we go.


In times of stress you see a person’s real character come out. Much of the above concerned Draymond Green’s character, good and bad. But last night we glimpsed Lebron James in a moment that revealed a little of his that had nothing to do with his 41 points and 16 rebounds.

The Oracle crowd had booed him from the time he stepped onto the court for warm ups. Blamed him for by the Draymond suspension. So it ‘s a hostile environment.

Second period, 9:48 remaining, Cavaliers up 38–35. It had gone back and forth in the first period. Lebron is coming back into the game after a short rest. This is all happening fast. Klay Thompson is at the line shooting free throws. Lebron removes his T-shirt and swings it to the ball boy standing along side.

We have seen this 1000 times, a player removes his outer garment and tosses it to the attendant, his head already back in the game, not giving a second thought to the kid who works for the other team’s arena.

Lebron in MVP mode
Lebron in MVP mode

But in game five of the NBA Finals, possibly the last game of the year, every resource engaged, Lebron swings his shirt over, acknowledges the kid, then taps him on the shoulder to say thanks before walking out onto the court.

No matter what else Lebron may do in this series, that simple gesture to some lowly ball boy showed the true mark of the man, or at least s piece of it. That was a MVP move that had nothing to do with a stat line or even winning and losing. I just thought it stood out in this age of the boorish and the brash in all walks.

Go Cavs.



  1. Great essay, Toni! I like hearing your voice, it’s perfectly distinct, whether in the air or on the page. Thanks for all the good writing and and fine opinions.



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