OAKLAND -- When the announcement blasted from the Oracle Arena sound system that Draymond Green had been assessed with a flagrant foul the reaction from the sellout crowd was disapproval with a generous undercurrent of dread.
The officials are targeting Draymond.
Draymond didn’t deserve such harsh judgment.
Well, with the Warriors up 14 on the Spurs and 4:27 remaining, at least this shouldn’t affect the game.
And, finally, as fans exited after the Warriors finished off a 116-101 victory over San Antonio in Game 2 Monday night, there inevitably was this: How many flagrant fouls are allowed before there is a suspension?
Warriors fans are all too familiar with Green’s history in matters of NBA discipline. The team’s ownership and management are aware of it. Coaches, too, as well as his teammates.
It’s popular to theorize Green’s suspension during the 2016 NBA Finals cost the Warriors a championship. Maybe it did. Maybe with him available, they would have closed out the Cavaliers in Game 5 at Oracle. At the very least, Green’s absence in Game 5 altered the arc of the series, giving Cleveland a chance to seize momentum.
"I have a strong belief that if I play in Game 5, we win,” Green said in Cleveland, prior to Game 6 of the 2016 Finals. “But I didn't because I put myself in a situation where I wasn't able to play,"
This is why there is no need to worry. No one is more mindful of Green’s history with officials and the league’s rule-enforcement arm than Green. After the anguish he felt while cooped up in a suite during a baseball game at the adjacent Coliseum as the Warriors took a 112-97 loss in Game 5, there is no way he does that again.
Not to himself and, moreover, not to his teammates.
Green will do what he must -- and not do what he shouldn’t -- to avoid the four flagrant foul points required for automatic suspension in the postseason, just as he dodged being assessed with 16 required for automatic suspension in the regular season.
He might approach a suspension, as he did in the regular season when he picked up No. 15 on Feb. 24 at Oklahoma City, had it rescinded two days later, only to reach 15 again on March 9 at Portland. He then stopped, cold turkey. After averaging one technical foul for every 4.4 games, Green went the last 16 games, playing in 12 of them, without another.
He knows there is a line, and he knows when not to cross it.
Green’s flagrant-1 in Game 2 came after he was attempting block out Davis Bertans under the basket and the Spurs forward came up from behind and swung his left elbow over Green’s right shoulder and into his neck. Green responded by raising his right arm above over Bertans’ left arm and catching him in his chin, with Bertans falling backward clutching his face.
Responding aggressively to initial aggression may be the most common flagrant-1 there is. And upon video review of the play by officials, that was the verdict of crew chief Ed Malloy.
Though surely annoyed by it, Warriors coach Steve Kerr exhibited no sign of apprehension after the game.
“We'll hear from the league, I guess,” he said. “Just got to go with it.”
Green also doesn’t seem deeply concerned.
“It is what it is,” he said. “Life goes on. There are more important things in life than worrying about a flagrant point. Maybe they will rescind it. I got choked, put in a chokehold, like I was in the WWE or something.”
The Warriors have talked with Green several times about his composure. But it’s a fine-line conversation, as they don’t want to extinguish his roaring flame as much as keep it focused in a single direction -- for his teammates, on his opponents.
It is, in some ways, like asking a lion to mute his roar. That’s not what they want, and it’s not what keeps Green ticking.
Green, however, is as smart as he is intense. When it matters most, he won’t permit his fiery persona to overtake his keen intellect.