Green called Durant from parking lot after Game 7

Draymond Green might have sealed Kevin Durant going to the Warriors with a cell phone call from the parking lot. (AP photo/Rick Bowmer)
BY ZACH LOWE

ESPN Senior Writer

June 8, 2017

Draymond Green sat along the sidelines this week at Quicken Loans Arena and pointed his right index finger at the spot where it happened -- where everything about the 2016 NBA Finals, and maybe about the next decade of NBA history, changed in a blur of angry limbs.

"That play?" Green said in a chat with ESPN.com, his voice rising. "I don't regret it. Like, I just don't. Some would say maybe I'm wrong for not regretting it. I don't live my life with regrets. I move on. It was never like, 'Oh man, I cost these guys a championship. Now, do I believe in my heart that I did cost us? Yeah, I do. Absolutely. But I still don't regret that play."

That play, of course, was Green swiping at LeBron James' groin as the world's best player stepped over him in an act Green and his team viewed as an intentional, emasculating taunt. The resulting flagrant foul mandated Green be suspended from Game 5 in Oakland. The Warriors were up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. They never won again.

It is an act with almost no parallel in sports history -- a flash of anger that upended a series on the precipice. To a man, the Warriors are sure they would have clinched the title in Game 5 at home had Green been available. Whether they are right is impossible to know, and not all that important. That they believe it is what matters. If they believe that, then they also believe Green's temper -- his accumulation of needless and violent on-court incidents -- cost them a once-in-a-lifetime chance to repeat as champions in a record-setting 73-win season.

That belief could tear a team apart. It would be natural for teammates to harbor bitterness toward Green. More trivial disputes ripped fissures in other teams that never healed. Green apologized, and the Warriors got past it, quickly. There were no further team meetings. Green did not have to pull any teammate aside and hash things out, he said. They rallied around Green, and accepted his mistake. Their bond grew stronger. Green learned to tread the line, and the Warriors are about to assume the throne again.

It did not have to be that way.

"Initially, we were upset," Shaun Livingston told ESPN.com. "Especially during that moment when we didn't know if he would be suspended. It was like, 'Come on, man. You have to be smarter.'"

The ruling from the league office galvanized them, as did rumblings -- accurate, per sources -- that the Cavaliers lobbied for a two-game suspension. "I think there was empathy for him," Bob Myers, the team's GM, told ESPN.com this week. "The worst thing, the most painful thing you can do to a player, is take him out of a game."

The Warriors list compassion as one of their core values, and they used it to digest what Green had done. "Draymond does so much for us," Bruce Fraser, an assistant coach, told ESPN.com. "You have to live with some of the emotional things he does that hurt you. He was remorseful. He spoke on it. And we have a compassionate group."

"He apologized," Steve Kerr, the team's head coach, told ESPN.com. "S--- happens. I never had any doubt the players would get over it."

Losing Games 6 and 7 helped. They had two more chances, with Green. They lost -- with Green. "I can see people thinking he cost us a championship, but it's not true," Livingston said. "We lost those games."

Owning their collective defeat shifted the focus away from any individual act. "It helped that we credited our opponents," Myers said. "In every arena now, people yell the '3-1 lead' stuff at us, and our response is: 'They beat us. They earned it.' And that is the healthiest response."

Did Green's performance in Game 7 -- 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting, 15 rebounds, 9 assists -- quash any lingering resentment?

"Hell yeah," Kerr said.

Everyone understands Green's foundational importance to the team's identity -- to the very shape they form on the court. There is no impenetrable switching defense without Green, no revolutionary Death Lineup. "We couldn't play the way we do without him," said Ron Adams, the team's defensive guru.

The core players had no choice but to forgive and forget; most of them were under contract for the next season and beyond, and Green wasn't going anywhere. "What are you going to do, trade Draymond because you can't get over it?" Kerr asked. "You have two choices: accept what he does, and that it comes with the occasional outburst, or trade him for a player who isn't as competitive -- a player who won't get kicked out of a game, but also won't get you to Game 7 of the Finals."

Myers was still curious. He held private exit meetings with every player, and he used them in part to see if there was any simmering discontent about the suspension.

"Given human nature, I thought there might be," Myers said. "There wasn't."

"It was important to answer that question for our franchise going forward," Myers told ESPN.com on a podcast in March. "And nobody blamed anyone for anything. How do you get over 3-1? That day got me over it. You can lose with the right people. It makes it tolerable, as much as it sucks to lose. You look around and say, 'You know what? I'll go back and fight this fight with you guys.'"

Green has also gotten better at controlling his temper. He has only two technicals so far in the playoffs -- and zero flagrants. "We don't want to take that emotion away from him," Klay Thompson told ESPN.com "That is what makes him so great -- that dog in him. He has just learned to harness it."

As nice as this all sounds, even Green recognizes things could have turned out differently had Kevin Durant chosen another team. With four stars, including two of the five best players in the league, the Warriors are guaranteed a realistic shot at the title every season. There would be other chances; Green did not blow their last one.

"I look at it as we lost the Finals, but we ended up with KD," Green said. "That's a helluva consolation prize."

Green was already working on that as he left Oracle Arena after that gutting Game 7 loss. Green sat in his car in the parking lot and called Myers, telling him he had to sign Durant. "It's on you," Green told Myers.

Green hung up, stayed in the parking lot, and made another call -- to Durant. "That was my very next call," Green said. Two weeks later, Durant signed a maximum contract that put him in a Golden State uniform for at least one season, with several more seasons likely to come.

"If we win the championship, I'm like 99 percent sure we don't get him," Green said. "There are silver linings to everything."


All-NBA teams are out, but what do they mean?

LeBron James, James Harden and Paul George. (Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
BY KEVIN O'CONNOR

The Ringer

May 19, 2017

Five takeaways from the All-NBA team announcement:

What does this mean for the future of Gordon Hayward and Paul George in Utah and Indiana, respectively? What does this mean for James Harden’s MVP campaign? Who the hell voted LeBron onto the second team?!

Money, it’s a gas — and the NBA hopes it will keep superstars home, dissuading them from bouncing in free agency and forming superteams. The designated player extension was created to enable certain players to sign five-year contracts worth 35 percent of the cap. This summer, the supermax figure is worth roughly $207 million over five years. One of the prerequisites for that special designation is being named to one of the three All-NBA teams in the season preceding the extension, meaning Thursday afternoon’s All-NBA reveal has significant implications for the league.

Here are the three teams:

All eyes were on Gordon Hayward and Paul George, both of whom will hit free agency over the next two summers. You’ll notice they’ve been omitted. So what does that mean? Here are five takeaways from the All-NBA rosters:


Gregg Popovich rant on Zaza is an all-timer

BY SCOTT DAVIS

Business Insider

May 15, 2017

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich ripped Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia on Monday for a controversial foul that injured Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

During the third quarter, Pachulia closed out on a Leonard shot attempt and appeared to put his foot under Leonard after the shot.

Leonard, whose injured ankle kept him out of Game 6 and part of Game 5 of the Spurs' second-round series against the Houston Rockets, landed on Pachulia's foot and had to leave the game. The Warriors went on an 18-0 run, erasing most of a 23-point Spurs lead. The Warriors won the game 113-111, outscoring the Spurs by 25 points without Leonard for most of the second half.

While it was unclear whether Pachulia's foot placement was intentional, Popovich said it was "a totally unnatural close-out" and listed past incidents he considers dirty plays by Pachulia:

"A two-step, lead-with-your-foot close-out is not appropriate. It's dangerous. It's unsportsmanlike. It's just not what anybody does to anybody else.

"And this particular individual has a history with that kind of action. You can go back and look at Dallas games where he got a flagrant two for elbowing Patty Mills. The play where he took Kawhi down and locked his arm in Dallas and could have broken his arm. Ask David West, his current teammate, how things went when Zaza was playing for Dallas and he and David got into it.

"And then think about the history he's had and what that means to a team, what happened last night: a totally unnatural closeout that the league has outlawed years ago and pays great attention to it."

Popovich then angrily broke down how Leonard's injury could affect the Spurs' title chances:

"You wanna know if that lessens our chances or not? We're playing very possibly the best team in the league. We don't know what's gonna happen in the East. And 9.75 people out of 10 would figure the Warriors would beat the Spurs.

"Well, we've had a pretty damn good season. We've played fairly well in the playoffs. I think we're getting better. We're up 23 points in the third quarter against Golden State, and Kawhi goes down like that. And you wanna know if our chances are less? And you wanna know how we feel? That's how we feel."

At the time of Popovich's media availability, Leonard was getting an MRI. Popovich said the Spurs expected Leonard to miss Game 2.

As many people pointed out, Pachulia's so-called foot trick has been around the NBA for years. Former Spurs wing Bruce Bowen was perhaps the player most known to slide his foot under jump shooters, risking potential injury. The Spurs retired Bowen's number, leading some to say Popovich's rant was hypocritical.

After Game 1, Leonard said he didn't think Pachulia was trying to intentionally hurt him. Pachulia also defended himself, saying big men often get called for many unintentional fouls.

Popovich, however, brushed that aside.

"I don't give a damn about intent," he said. "You still go to jail for manslaughter."


Oklahoma City Thunder Western Conference City Champion Highlights June 6th 2012

The Oklahoma City Thunder win Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs to become Western Conference Final Champions in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Oklahoma City Thunder Western Conference City Champion Highlights June 6th 2012.

Be sure to catch Durant delivering a one-hand bounce pass to a wide-open Kendrick Perkins.

 

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