Random Rumblings: May 23rd

A Swift Kick to the 😳

Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams in the nuts last night and the entire world seemed to freak out about it. Unpopular opinion - it didn't bother me and I don't think Green should be suspended.

This has nothing to do with changing the landscape of a playoff series. I wouldn't want to see Green suspended for a regular season game. I don't think there's anything here other than extremely unfortunate incidental contact. 

Green flailed his leg after Adams fouled him, which is unnecessary but not reckless. That leg hit Adams between his. It's horribly unfortunate, but not suspendible. It's important to note that the league doesn't try to determine intent on these type of incidents because intent is impossible to know. They do determine if the play was reckless. This could hurt Green because I think it's easier to look at this play and determine it was reckless (although I think it wasn't) than it is to say he did it on purpose.

The question is whether it was reckless to the level necessary for suspension. I absolutely don't think it is and I absolutely hope it's not. This series is going to have an epic conclusion and a Green suspension could suck the air out of it. If he did something clearly worthy, then they have to do it and that's life. However with so much disagreement amongst reasonable people, I would hope the league office errs to the side of leaving Green on the floor.

The Real Problem

Whether Green plays or not, the Warriors have a real problem in that their normal solution to all problems isn't working. The Warriors "death lineup" of Curry/Thompson/Barnes/Iguodala/Green is a -8 in the series thanks to OKC's bigs being mobile enough to play against it and then, in Game 3, a discovery of a small ball lineup that murdered the Warriors, albeit for one night. Most teams choose the lesser of two evils and play small against that lineup. 

The Thunder played Serge Ibaka at center and went nuts on Golden State. It's a type of loss the Warriors literally haven't had in two years. Their losses are normally close, if normally can be used with "losses" and "Warriors" in the same sentence. They normally don't lose. When they have though, it's never been like this.

This is the most peril Golden State has been in since they were down 2-1 to Memphis last year. It was then that Steve Kerr pulled out the strategy to simply not guard Tony Allen and changed the entire series. It's going to take some kind of strategic change again.

The Warriors can't and won't panic. They're the best team in basketball and they're built to be flexible. They're armed with the deepest roster in the league that can play the most different ways. Unlike Memphis last year though, Oklahoma City is probably right behind them in that regard so Kerr has to choose carefully.

He could change his starting lineup, however his starters have the best +/- of any five man lineup in the series. By that measurement, you could argue he should play them even more. He could re-shuffle his matchups, keeping a bigger defender on Russell Westbrook the entire game (never letting Steph Curry guard him) in an effort to dissuade Westbrook from attacking the rim if such a thing can be done. 

He could change strategy and pack it in defensively. The Warriors gave up 62 points in the paint in Game 3. That is abysmal.

Another interesting thought is to slow the pace. The Warriors play at one of the fastest paces in the league and it was thought that no one can run with them. Oklahoma City can on many nights, but I would trust the Warriors more in a slower game to be patient and execute. Slowing the pace would make Oklahoma City make more decisions on both ends of the floor and that's where Golden State's army of high IQ players could potentially become an advantage.

However slowing the pace in the Western Conference Finals would be a massive risk by Kerr from a mental standpoint. It could be seen as a sign of panic to his players. When they've won 73 games and two playoff series playing one way, why all of a sudden switch? He has a mature team who can roll with the punches, but a complete change in identity could be a hard sell. Kerr knows his team. That's why he's paid the big bucks.

The solution to all of this, no matter who is playing at what pace, is to make shots. When the Thunder blew the game open last night late in the first half, Golden State couldn't put the ball in the basket. That allowed the Thunder to run off misses and turnovers and get easy buckets. When Team A is scoring easily and Team B isn't scoring at all, Team B is going to get their asses kicked.

I still think Golden State wins this series because I trust Kerr, his staff and the Warriors' players to figure it out. They're too good to be broken by one game, no matter how ugly it was.

That said, Oklahoma City has done this before. In 2012, Durant, Westbrook and co. thrashed an scorching hot San Antonio team that had won 22 straight games before losing four in a row to the Thunder, including the first two games of their series. The Spurs team they beat in this years second round was a 67 win team. They're scared of no one and their confidence is through the roof.

I said before the series that I wouldn't be surprised if Oklahoma City won. They have two of the best five players on earth, and so far in this series they're playing like it and getting the requisite help to pull off the upset.

The Good Reads

We, the media, love to tell players' stories. It's one of my favorite things to do and something I want to do more of. I love to know where an athlete's from and how he or she got to the highest level of athletic competition. What adversity did he or she face along the way? We're also taught that we are never the story. The Warriors' Harrison Barnes isn't too fond of that last part and turned the tables on Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson. Thompson is from Oakland, so Barnes had Thompson give him a tour of the neighborhood he grew up in. Read/watch until the end. The message from Barnes, one of the most thoughtful athletes in any sport, is powerful: http://blogs.mercurynews.com/thompson/2016/05/22/warriors-harrison-barnes-journeys-deep-oakland/

Pablo Torre's profile of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade's friendship is full of amazing nuggets, many from Wade's wife Gabrielle Union: http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/15617204

Former Letterman producer Walter Kim made a short film about the end of the show. Here's Part I. I can't wait for Part II: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-lost-my-dream-job-front-14-million-people-walter-kim?trk=pulse_spock-articles