Draymond Green deserved a flagrant 2, no matter how much the Warriors protest

Draymond Green deserved a flagrant 2 foul.

The Golden State Warriors don't agree and are doing a fine job of shaping the narrative that he got hosed on Sunday. But he didn't. He smacked Brandon Clarke in the face, then dragged him down by his jersey from midair. It was reckless and dangerous, and Clarke's fortunate to not have been injured.

Clear-cut flagrant 2

The narrative that Green didn't deserve a flagrant 2 started on the ESPN broadcast and quickly caught fire on social media, thanks largely to this widely shared replay of the incident that showed Green attempting to brace Clarke's fall after he dragged him down to the court:

Second and third angles of the incident show the full story. That story includes Green winding up with his right hand, smacking Clarke in the face, then dragging him to the floor by his jersey with his left hand.

That Green attempted to brace Clarke's fall after he committed a flagrant 2 violation doesn't negate the fact that he smacked Clarke and dragged him to the court in the first place.

That's a clear-cut flagrant 2 foul, which the NBA defines as "unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent." Calling it that way does not make today's NBA soft. This was not a basketball play.

But social media ran with the first angle while largely ignoring the others, setting the "downgrade" campaign in full motion. Green was happy to carry the baton postgame.

Draymond's pitch to reduce flagrant 2

Green continued the campaign immediately after Sunday's Game 1 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, jumping on his podcast postgame to lobby for a flagrant 1 foul.

"I think tonight was probably a reputation thing more so than a hard foul," Green said on his Sunday podcast episode labeled as an 'Emergency Pod.' "My biggest worry moving forward is that gives me two flagrant foul points. ... So my hope is that the right thing will happen and it'll at least get rescinded to a flagrant 1."

It was a brilliant bit of self-promotion from Green, who in one swoop made his case for his basketball postseason while propping up his burgeoning media career, which is showing great promise for his second act after basketball. Unfortunately for Green, his pitch for a flagrant 1 downgrade failed. An NBA spokesperson told The Athletic's Shams Charania Monday morning that the flagrant 2 will stand.

The NBA's decision didn't stop Green from making his case. He pleaded to TNT's "Inside the NBA" crew on Monday — whom he sometimes works alongside — that "I didn’t yank his jersey.”

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green reacts in the first half during Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, Sunday, May 1, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Draymond Green does not agree with his flagrant 2 foul. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Steph blames Draymond's 'reputation'

Despite the failed effort, Golden State continued the campaign to soften Green's image on Monday, planting the seed for the next time officials have a decision on whether or not to assess Green a flagrant foul of any degree. This time, Stephen Curry led the charge.

"It's where human nature comes in, where obviously if you've watched him play, you know how demonstrative he is," Curry said. ... "There's no way you can't clear that out of your mind, right or wrong. I think it's wrong in terms of that situation yesterday where we'll never know if somebody else does that exact same foul — is it a [flagrant] 1, is it a 2? Whatever it is."

Curry does a fine job here of walking the line between outright criticism of officials and planting a seed. But his message is clear. Officials should think twice about being too harsh with Green. His next flagrant could be a costly one, after all.

Based on the NBA's postseason flagrant foul system, four points earns a player a suspension. A flagrant 2 is worth two points and a flagrant 1 is worth one, leaving Green one flagrant 2 or two flagrant 1 fouls away from a one-game postseason ban. Golden State's been here before.

Green's repeatedly stuck opponents in the groin during his career, contributing to his oft-referenced reputation. His antics earned him a suspension during Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals, a ban that very well may have cost this Warriors core a fourth NBA championship. His latest foray leaves him at risk of another postseason ban, which would obviously be a big deal at this stage of the playoffs and beyond.

Did Green's reputation come into play in referee Kane Fitzgerald's decision to assess a flagrant 2? Probably. And that's fine. Green's reputation is well-earned. If the decision was a borderline call that came down to giving Green the benefit of the doubt, Green certainly doesn't deserve it. There were plenty of officiating issues in Golden State's Game 1 win, but Green's flagrant 2 wasn't one of them.

If Green does end up with a postseason suspension, he'll likely have nobody to blame but himself.