- Tony Dejak/AP
An NBA Finals that’s been lacking in action just got an adrenaline shot.
James and Green got tangled up during a fourth-quarter play, when Green fell to the floor. James stepped over him, and Green took a swipe at James, making contact near James’ groin. The two went face-to-face two more times during the play before James had to be held back from Green after they exchanged words.
The NBA reviewed the play and gave Green a Flagrant 1 foul. Because it was Green’s fourth flagrant foul of this postseason, he was automatically suspended for a game.
And while Green’s swipe at James’ groin may have raised some eyebrows – particularly because of Green’s past incidents this postseason – many of the Golden State Warriors felt that it was James who made a dirty move by stepping over Green.
Following the announcement of Green’s suspension, Warriors players ripped into LeBron.
“It’s messed [up] to suspend a man over nothing,” Warriors center Mo Speights said. “If somebody put [their] balls on your head, what are you supposed to do? Balls are on the back of his head. It’s kind of messed up man, but hey.”
“A guy does something like that, you kind of lose respect for him,” Speights continued. “I had a lot of respect for LeBron over his career, since he was in high school. But, do things like that to get a guy suspended? That kind of disrespectful.”
Stephen Curry was less intense in his criticism, but he added, “I don’t know what LeBron’s intention was. You have to ask him. Obviously, Draymond thought it was disrespectful and wanted to get up and say something, so that was his reaction to it. I would have probably done the same thing.”
Charles Barkley, a TNT analyst and former NBA player, said on Bleacher Report radio on Sunday that Green had a “moral obligation” to retaliate against LeBron for stepping over him.
“That’s really disrespectful to step over a guy. You’re supposed to pop him in his junk if he steps over you like that,” he said.
After Game 4, LeBron was asked about the confrontation with Green and suggested that Green said something that went over the line.
James said on Friday:
Draymond just said something that I don’t agree with. I’m all cool with the competition. I’m all fine with that, but some of the words that came out of his mouth were a little bit overboard, and being a guy with pride, a guy with three kids and a family, things of that nature. Some things just go overboard and that’s where he took it, and that was it.
According to ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss, several Warriors players feel that James lobbied for Green’s suspension. As part of the NBA’s review process, they interviewed James and Green about the incident. Green’s suspension earned James something of a “tattletale” reputation with the Warriors.
Golden State guard Klay Thompson scoffed at the notion of James being offended by trash talk.
“I’m just kind of shocked some guys take it so personal,” Thompson said. “It’s like, I mean, you know, it’s a man’s league and I’ve heard a lot of bad things on that court, but at the end of the day it stays on the court.”
Speights added, “If you’re a player in this league you want to compete for a championship, you going to have to play. Don’t try to get nobody suspended. You supposed to be the best in the league. You supposed to be the best in the world. Prove it.”
James, of course, bristled at these comments, insisting on taking the “high road” despite being tempted to respond to the Warriors’ comments.
Though no Warriors players responded to this, Curry’s wife, Ayesha, seemed to make a pointed retort to James’ remark:
High Road. invisible bridge used to step over said person when open floor is available left to right.
— Ayesha Curry (@ayeshacurry) June 12, 2016
Speights had one more thought to add:
— Marreese Speights (@Mospeights16) June 12, 2016
Green won’t be there, but Game 5 should get interesting.
Watch the play that ignited the controversy and suspension below: