While every living thing between the Sun and Pluto is putting on steel-toed boots solely for the purpose of kicking Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons, the Warriors can’t be blamed for trying to conceal a sly grin.
Not because they take joy in seeing a supine NBA player being blowtorched by his own coaches and teammates. By opposing teammates. By devoted and casual NBA fans. And probably by the entire Kardashian-Jenner clan, which once considered Simmons part of the family.
The Warriors are quietly, selfishly betting that seeing Bashful Ben being paddled in public will make them a better team.
They surely believe the sheer humiliation Simmons is experiencing in the wake of his basketball sins during the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Hawks will make Draymond Green a more complete player.
Draymond and Ben, for better and worse, have a lot in common. Each can superbly defend all five positions. Each has the marvelous ability to zing crisp and timely passes to teammates. Each is good at collecting rebounds. Simmons, with 32 career triple-doubles, ranks seventh among active players, while Green (30) is eighth – and each finds scoring the most challenging component of this statistic, which can at times be subjective in its value.
Simmons, however, stepped into the postseason, brightest of NBA spotlights, and took this to an extreme. Already reluctant to shoot – taking one shot in 43 fourth-quarter minutes over the final six games of the series – Simmons opted to pass rather than take a wide open dunk that would have evened the score inside the final four minutes of Game 7.
That’s felony, indefensible overpassing. Assuming Simmons was on board with winning, that was foolish.
Draymond sometimes is guilty of overpassing, but he’s no fool.
He lives to win and gets salty about losing. The Warriors know this as do their fans. Draymond is living with the fact that in the final seconds of the play-in game against the Memphis Grizzlies, he bricked a five-foot floater that would have secured a victory and a berth in the playoffs. The Warriors lost in overtime, he took some heat, and he’ll have to own it.
Being a determined competitor, Draymond never wants to relive such a moment.
Being a devoted observer of the game, analyzing every move, he saw what Simmons did and didn’t do. Ben’s pretty pass to teammate Matisse Thybulle led to an Atlanta foul, with Thybulle making one of two free throws.
Ben’s decision-making cost his team one point. That hurt.
His failure to dunk denied fans in Philadelphia a chance to rattle the walls of Wells Fargo Center and maybe pierce the composure of the Hawks. Dunks late in tight games have a way of invigorating teammates and home crowds, while sometimes deflating opponents. Botching the opportunity to generate momentum likely hurt more that losing one point.
After the top-seeded Sixers fell to the fifth-seeded Hawks, Simmons was pilloried. He had 13 assists, eight rebounds, five points and zero credibility as a scoring threat. He took no shots in the fourth quarter. He forced his four teammates, including wounded center Joel Embiid, to navigate five defenders.
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There were times last season when Green restricted his game in much the same way. It hurt the Warriors, no matter what coach Steve Kerr said. Anytime a player need not be defended, it narrows passing windows and forces his teammates to bear a heavier load.
Draymond expects much better of himself. Know that he will make an adjustment. With the Warriors expected to be markedly better next season, he’ll do everything in his power to spare himself an offseason filled with the kind of withering criticisms he has noticed over the past couple days.
He is too proud to accept such treatment, which is the reason behind the Warriors’ smile.