I am not saying JaVale McGee and the Warriors intentionally meant to do anything to provoke or anger the Wizards late in last night’s victory over Washington.
I am also not saying that Draymond Green and his teammates clearly (and successfully) trying to make sure he got a triple-double… or Steve Kerr keeping Green and Stephen Curry in the game a little past the time most coaches would’ve pulled all stars… were obvious signs of egregiously shaky sportsmanship.
This is the NBA, it’s a long season, it’s entertainment, the Warriors are usually good about these scenarios, things happen fast, and I can get as weary of the Unwritten Rules in Sports as anybody.
When you’re good, you should be aware of this stuff.
Steve Kerr has called it making sure you don’t mess around with the “basketball gods,” and generally you could you say that teams should avoid doing things that make it look like they’re unnecessarily messing around with the score or stat line.
Especially if you’re a very good team. That gets in these situations a lot.
It’s a responsibility you want, because you’re good. The Kings and Magic don’t have to worry about these things–because who pays much attention to what they do on the court?
But the Warriors have this on their plate, if they care about the unwritten rules and not showing up an opponent, and I think they do care, which is a good thing.
When you’re the best team in the league–and have been for most of three seasons–you should be conscious that doing frivolous things at the end of a comfortable victory may not go over well with your opponent, and McGee’s late three-pointer very much didn’t go over well with Washington.
The Warriors can be viewed very differently in different markets, but sitting here as someone who has watched every game for years and years, I can say I haven’t seen them do much that crossed any possible ethical/competitive line.
They celebrate big moments, but so does every other team. They make fancy plays, they bark at referees, they sometimes go for stats… all within the usual NBA realm, all stuff the great Bulls teams did or great Lakers teams or the Cavaliers do now.
I don’t think the Warriors have gone wayward–by any reasonable present-day judgment–too often.
I thought last night probably did, a little.
A point: Everything that happened is explainable and probably would’ve been wholly uneventful if this wasn’t the Warriors doing them.
Teams go for triple-doubles all the time. Centers take 3-pointers in garbage time. There are blow-outs every night. But the Wizards didn’t have to love the combination of these things last night and they didn’t.
Yes, the Warriors have had other teams do this kind of stuff at the end of games to them recently and in the distant past (when they were lousy), for sure, and at times the Warriors haven’t been thrilled (Milwaukee game last season) and at times they’ve shrugged.
But they’re the best team in the league now, they win and win and win, and everything they do gets magnified. By now they should know this.
I think things were building up in the final minutes of last night’s game–the Warriors were calling plays specifically for Draymond to get the triple-double (and, as Nate Duncan reminds, haven’t Warriors people complained about this sort of thing with Russell Westbrook?)…
(Yes. They have.)
This is normal NBA stuff, and Draymond deserved to want that triple-double because he’d had such a good game… but again, Washington didn’t have to embrace this.
And then the final seconds came and McGee got the ball with about 10 seconds left in the game and 6 on the shot-clock and he put up a 3-pointer from the corner (with about 5 on the shot-clock), which did not please Brandon Jennings, who shoved McGee to the ground while he was taking the shot.
There was time for McGee to dribble once or twice, pass it to somebody else, or just take a mid-range shot that did not seem like he was goofing around before the shot-clock expired.
It’s a lot to ask, I realize. McGee was just reacting to getting the ball with the clock winding down, he didn’t want a turnover (by letting the clock expire), so he shot it.
Not nefarious. None of this was outright poor sportsmanship. If the Warriors keep doing this, and understand that the opponent might not be thrilled, that’s all relatively fair in this NBA universe.
But my point: Really good teams have a higher responsibility in these circumstances and as the final seconds ticked down, the Warriors players on the floor should’ve been aware of this.
–One way to look at this. If it happened to the Warriors, would some GSW players and fans be upset? Yes.
–Flash back to then-Warriors coach Mark Jackson intentionally fouling the Rockets at the end of a game to prevent them from setting a three-point record that night.
–I was OK with Jackson doing that then and I was OK with people who thought it was an over-reaction and I was OK with the Rockets saying hey, it’s just us playing ball. The point is that you start messing around you leave yourself open to opponents not being crazy happy with you.
If you’re the Wizards, or any other team at the end of a tough loss, you have the right to wonder why a center who never takes 3s was jacking up a 3 at that point, for a team that was about to win its 63rd game–and 11th in a row–and is the favorite to win it all.
Kerr himself said he apologized to Washington coach Scott Brooks afterwards and said McGee shouldn’t have shot three three-pointer and I think Kerr might’ve been tacitly acknowledging the other stuff that built up to this, too.
This is not the largest issue in the world. This clearly will not be the most popular post ever among Warriors fandom.
But the Warriors are in a great run right now, and I don’t think they want to regularly start crossing up the basketball gods now–and if they do, their opponents are going to tell them they did.