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Trash Talk, Nut Shots, and the Rules of the Game

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After Draymond Green was retroactively assessed a flagrant 1 and handed a one-game suspension for taking a “retaliatory swipe of his hand to the groin” of LeBron James in Game 4, Green’s teammate Klay Thompson sent one across the bow during a Sunday press conference:

“A man’s league.” Hm.

In the Riley Curry vacuum, Klay has emerged this postseason as the Warriors’ press conference star. There was the time after Game 2 when he said to hell with being respectful of the old school: “We were better than the Showtime Lakers.” (He was playfully busting on his ex-Laker father, Mychal Thompson.) There was the time he was grasping for positives after a loss to the Thunder in the Western Conference finals and accidentally rounded team assists from 15 up to 40.

That involuntary “sheesh” was great. His special brand of dry humor has been great. But with Sunday’s remarks, he may have officially played himself.

Klay went on to add some thoughts about what might’ve been the true cause for LeBron’s reaction:

The best thing about trash talk is that it has to be only a little bit true. Actually, it can be totally baseless so long as it sounds tight. The second-best thing is that you don’t have to live by your own trash talk — in fact, you can be actively dismissive of anything you said prior to just five seconds ago.

Let us hark back briefly to the presser after Game 3 of the Finals, during which a visibly annoyed Klay — in his best “I just think it’s funny how” voice — complained about getting the Rick Mahorn special from Timofey Mozgov late in that game’s first quarter. Thompson claimed that Mozgov’s moving screen was “kind of dirty” (it was mostly clumsy), but to Klay’s credit, he did make it back around to acknowledging “that’s basketball.”

And that is basketball, sort of. And, so is talking cash-money shit to your opponents. LeBron knows that. That’s why he rarely snaps at on-court provocation. James broke the rules when he reacted, and was assessed a technical for it.

Green’s punishment might seem heavy-handed in comparison, and it’s understandable that a teammate would rush to his defense because, well, that’s what teammates do. Especially if there’s a sneaking suspicion that the guy who threw the first punch dry-snitched to the league.

But let me say this so that we understand each other: Draymond Green deserved what he got.

Whether LeBron James chose to step over Green simply because he was trying to “get back in the play” or as a clap-back for Green being exceptionally handsy on the high screen that preceded this little incident, the fact remains that Draymond Green chose to tap LeBron James’s sack. The same sack he tapped when LeBron was taking it to the rack earlier in the game. At least anatomically similar (probably) to Steven Adams’s sack, which Green kicked in the Western Conference finals. On two separate occasions.

Regardless of whether you think Green’s suspension is a “good” thing (it isn’t) — regardless of whether you think he was baited — it is what’s just. If it happens once, you can charge it to the game. Four times in the span of a few weeks means that in addition to being the heart and soul of your team, your fave is also a sack tapper. If the Warriors manage to clinch their second consecutive title on Monday night, he’ll be watching the final call from somewhere outside Oracle Arena.

Thanks to Klay Thompson, LeBron James, who already makes a habit of going full Thanos mode in elimination games, is now ticked off.

It’s cool to see that Klay actually has a personality and all, but he might live to regret opening Bifrost.