Here is a link to my Saturday column about Draymond Green. The full text runs below:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This you’ve got to hear.
In Memphis — a terrific city — Draymond Green is the bad guy. The evil one. Verging on the anti-Christ. It’s all about him and the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley.
In Game 2 of this series in Oakland, as you remember, Green went after a loose ball, did it in the flow of the game. Conley held the ball to his injured face. Green grabbed the ball. As he grabbed, he hit Conley’s busted face or put pressure on Conley’s face, that face covered by that clear plastic mask. A Phantom of the Opera look. Certainly Green hurt Conley’s face. Certainly Conley lay there writhing in pain.
It was a bad look. That’s for sure. But was it a bad act? Was there a bad intention? We are talking right and wrong here. Conley, to his credit — he seems like a good guy — said, “I think it was just basketball.”
It was a statement intended to defuse tension. It also was the correct call. From what I saw — and I watched the replay endlessly — Green grabbed the ball away from Conley and continued past him. It really was just a basketball play. Green didn’t rub the ball on Conley’s hurt face, or push the ball down on Conley’s face, or take a quick slap at Conley’s face.
Those would have been the acts of a coward and, if Green did that, I would write it. I’m not here to make a case for Green because he’s local or because he’s a Warrior or even because he’s a nice man — he seems to be. I’m making a case for Green because he did nothing wrong.
A guy here on local radio said Green “attacked” Conley. “Attacked” is a serious verb which implies prior intent and bad intent. How the radio guys knows all that I don’t understand. He sounded biased to me. A sports journalist — any journalist — is supposed to search for the truth. Sometimes, sports radio people don’t do that. Don’t do it in Memphis. Don’t do it in San Francisco.
The radio dope wasn’t as bad as the U.S. congressman.
That’s right, the U.S. congressman.
A U.S. congressman from Tennessee got worked up at Green. Took up the Conley cause. The representative’s name is Steve Cohen and this is what he tweeted: “Cheap shot by Green. He knew what he was doing and to whom. #Warriors should be ashamed. #GoGrizz!”
I don’t know Cohen. I assume he’s a hoops fan. Emphasis on “fan.” I assume he wants votes and I assume he espouses local causes. Like Mike Conley’s face.
It’s just that no one called a foul on Green for that play. The officials had no problem with Green, as in zero. But the representative did. So I asked Steve Kerr about a federal official getting involved in the Warriors-Grizzlies series. Our dialogue went like this:
“A U.S. representative, a congressman from down here, tweeted that Draymond did a dirty play on Conley,” I said. “There’s more talk of that. What can you say to calm these people down, or do you even feel it’s necessary?”
Kerr didn’t answer right away. Usually, he answers right away. His mind works fast and he’s verbal off the charts. All he did was smile. It was a Burt Lancaster smile. If you don’t remember Burt, say, in “Vera Cruz,” I’m sorry.
The Burt Lancaster smile is the smile of a man who has it all under control. It’s the smile of someone who laughs at his foe, who feels utter contempt, who is above the conversation. Burt, of course, would have plugged the guy with his six-shooter.
Kerr, as far as I know, is no gunslinger. When he finally answered, his words dripped with disgust for what he considered Cohen’s loss of perspective.
“I would hope the congressman has better things to do,” Kerr said.
He laughed. It was not a happy laugh. It was a serious laugh. Severe.
“There’s a lot more important things than breaking down the game,” he said. “We’ve got lots of people — you guys (journalists) are here to break down the game. And me. I watched the play. A loose ball. He (Green) reached down to grab the loose ball. I don’t know if you saw anything different. That’s what I saw. So I didn’t see anything dirty.”
Kerr turned his face away. End of answer. End of story. Like, what could the congressman be thinking of? The economy is in the pits, and we can’t seem to agree with Iran, and ISIS is going wild.
And the congressman was concerned with fun and games. With a play in a game that took a fraction of a second and had no impact on the game or the series. Or life in general.
So, sure, tonight the Memphis crowd will boo Green like he’s the bad guy in a pro wrestling match, will go wild in the Grind House. It’s what they call FedEx Forum, and it’s a great name. The crowd will assign Green the bad-guy role. It’s part of sports and it’s the fun of sports. But everyone knows the truth. Based on that one play, Green is no bad guy.
One other thing — and let’s get real. Mike Conley plays at his own peril. No one wants to hurt him. But no one wants to let up, either. Go easy on him because he’s injured. Play soft because Conley wears a mask. Not fight like hell for a loose ball because Conley might get hurt. Forget that.
Conley is out there. He plays. He takes his chances.
You know that, congressman.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.