Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green speaks at a news conference after Game 2 of basketball’s NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com
CLEVELAND — Napoleon once said history is a set of lies agreed upon.
So exactly who is fibbing when Magic Johnson claims that his Showtime Lakers would have swept the Warriors and Draymond Green just laughs?
That’s the beauty of comparing teams from across decades — there are no right and wrong answers, only opinions born out of clouds of memory mixed with contemporary prejudice.
“That’s my thoughts,” Green said when he finished chuckling at the statement from the Lakers’ Hall of Fame legend.
“First off, the game is completely different than it was back then. Nowadays, if you can’t shoot a three, you’re a liability on the floor. That wasn’t the case back then. So I never understand when people try to compare eras and say, oh, this team could have beat this team or they couldn’t have beat that team or this player is better than that player.
“It doesn’t make sense to me because you’re kind of talking two different games, for real. So I never really understand that, nor do I get off into it. They were great in their time, we’re great in our time and respect that.
“You know, I think we would say we would have ran them out of the gym. But is that true? I don’t know. We’ll never know.”
Just like we’ll never know for sure if the Cavaliers would have made their historic climb out of the 3-1 hole in last year’s Finals if Green hadn’t reached out for a punch on LeBron James’ lower regions in the dying minutes of game four. But it’s the way most reasonable folks would have bet.
The immediate effect of the thoughtless action was the lightning rod forward getting suspended for game five, which gave the Cavs the crack of daylight they needed to gain confidence for a run to their own place in history.
Green, to his credit, stepped forward and took responsibility for that crash by the record-setting 73-win Warriors and vowed not to let it ever happen again.
So there he was picking up two personal fouls early and five fouls total in game two on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), yet managing not to cross the line of propriety into the kind of full tantrum
“I’ve just been playing basketball, brother,” Green said. “And when you’ve got great teammates like I do, who allow me to play with my emotions … just really trying to lead this team as much as I can in the ways that I do for this team. I think at the end of the day, everyone talks to officials. I talk to them. But going over the edge isn’t going to win me a championship. I think I’m a pretty smart guy and I learned my lesson. So I went over the edge before … Fool me once, you can’t fool me twice.”
Truth is, the Warriors know what they let slip through their fingers 12 months ago, rolling into Cleveland just like now with a 2-0 lead in the series and not being able to finish the job. What should have been a back-to-back title would have validated those 73 wins during the regular season rather than leave them as an asterisk in the history books and now a possible “three-peat” could have vaulted them right into the conversation with Magic’s Lakers, Michael Jordan’s Bulls, any of the previous claims to the top rung on the ladder of past champions.
Nobody is more aware than Green, who has not yet exploded for one of his across-the-board stat lines of all-around fireworks in the series, but at the same time has made significant contributions without being goaded by any of the Cavs’ irritating tactics and falling victim to his own short fuse. He has shown his displeasure with some of the plays and some of the whistles and yet kept himself on the floor to keep toiling.
Now the Warriors are an unprecedented 14-0 in the playoffs and winning by an average of 16.9 points per game. If they were to win the next two games to run the table undefeated, one might make the argument that, based on a perfect record, they are the best of all time. After all, a year ago, the Warriors chased the 73 like it was the holy grail.
“Nah, we made that mistake in circling 73 and worrying about the wrong thing before,” Green said. “It don’t matter. So if we were to go 16-0, we beat four teams … But they weren’t the four teams (Magic’s Lakers) had to beat.
“That would be a great thing to do and everyone wants to make history. But I want to win four games. If that’s 4-3, it’s 4-3. If that’s 4-zero, great. But I just want to win four games. The championship is history and that’s really the only history we need to make.”
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