“Golden State’s reliance on an unstable isotope is a high-stakes gamble that has finally blown up in their face,” FreeDarko founder Bethlehem Shoals writes for GQ re: Draymond Green’s Game 5 suspension for whacking LeBron James in the dick and balls. “The degree to which Golden State depends on Green ... might itself be a problem.”
Apart from the mechanical problems with the nuclear physics analogy—unstable isotopes don’t blow up on their own—there’s the nagging fact that the Warriors are near-mortal locks to win their second consecutive championship in the next few days. I submit to you that if this is the Draymond Green isotope blowing up, the explosion is a lot more like a celebratory firecracker than like, for example, a boobytrapped cigar.
That is to say, these the-Warriors-made-a-deal-with-the-devil-and-now-it’s-coming-due narratives make Faustian bargains seem awfully smart. Draymond Green did a Draymond Green thing that made the job of winning Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals harder for the Warriors than it otherwise would have been; if that is the cost of the all-time record number of games he’s helped them win by doing Draymond Green things over what’s likely the best two-season stretch in NBA history, I suspect they’ll pay it gladly. They won’t ask him to sit out Game 6 for fear of aftershocks, you know?
Draymond Green does dirty shit—including, apparently, lashing out at the nuts of important players on opposing teams—often enough to warrant calling him an asshole, and kind of a punk on top of it. Even if you believe or grudgingly accept that macho physical enforcement has a place in professional basketball, c’mon, man: Look the dude in the eye and slug him in the fucking jaw. Don’t swat his nuts from behind (or crane-kick them, or knee them, or tackle them). That’s bullshit. And yeah, this definitely will not be the last time it earns him a suspension.
The math checks out, though. It’s the same cost-benefit calculation underpinning, for example, the muggings dished out on virtually every down by the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive backs. It’s the same calculation underpinning, for example, these same Golden State Warriors’ relentless chucking of irresponsible-seeming three-pointers. Over the course of a game or series or season, it’ll pay off far more often than it backfires. It has paid off far more often than it has backfired.
More to the point, however much anybody might like to believe the contrary, it is part of who the Golden State Warriors are and part of what has made them so phenomenally successful, and has been all along, just as much as the more aesthetically pleasing and more comfortably celebrated hallmarks of their style. In a league structured to balance the distribution of its talent, a team does not become historically great by parsing strategic and tactical inefficiencies and opportunities for only the most ethically upstanding and telegenic ones. The Warriors leverage the 10 feet beyond the three-point arc better than any team in the NBA; they leverage the efficiency of the three-point shot better than any team in the NBA; they leverage positional versatility better than any team in the NBA; they leverage referees’ preference for not whistling endless moving screens better than any team in the NBA. And, when a chance presents itself, they—in the person of Draymond Green—will leverage the vulnerability of your dick and balls. No one or two edges got them to 73 wins or brought them within a game of clinching their second consecutive title; all of the above did—including Draymond’s willingness to fight dirty.
The only thing any of that undermines is the prevailing fable of Golden State’s merry basketball elves, out here effervescing their way to historic greatness via sheer folk-hero spunk and altruistic joy, but that was bullshit to begin with. Draymond Green is an asshole. He will hit a dude in the nuts from behind; he will do anything; the Warriors are counting on it. It’s a lot of why they’re so good, and indivisible from the rest of it. It’s no small part of what they’ll be missing tonight, and what they’ll be glad to have back if the series lasts to Thursday. It’s obnoxious and cynical and a winning proposition, like Draymond Green himself. The math checks out.