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Is the NBA entering a new era of disciplining players for bad behavior?


In pro basketball, Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors is in trouble for his conduct on the court.


UNIDENTIFIED REFEREE: After video review, Green makes unnecessary and excessive contact to the face. The foul has been upgraded to a flagrant foul, Penalty 2, and Green has been ejected from the game.


INSKEEP: There you go. Draymond Green was tossed out of the game against the Phoenix Suns. He'd hit another player with a flailing arm. And this is his third ejection this season, and it's only December. Instead of banning him for a few games, the league says Green is suspended indefinitely. Does this mean the NBA's cracking down on bad behavior? Let's ask Jesse Washington, who is with Andscape, part of ESPN. Welcome back.

JESSE WASHINGTON: Good to be here, Steve. Good morning.

INSKEEP: Wow. I was just watching the video of this incident, and it's, like, baffling to me. Green is off in a corner with another player, so they are maneuvering, but they're away from the ball. It's not the center of the play at all. And suddenly Green just, like, spins around like a dancer, and his arm just whacks the other guy, who's down for quite some time. What happened there?

WASHINGTON: And Draymond happened, and it looked like something out of the karate movies that I used to watch when I was a kid, you know? Basically, Draymond is sort of escalating these outlandish physical tactics that, A, have helped the Golden State Warriors become a dynasty and win four championships but, B, have resulted in this series of incidents and violent type of situations that have got him in big trouble with the league.

INSKEEP: Are you saying that you think this is not just a guy who's not totally in control of his body? You think this is a strategic move, this is a strategic way to play?

WASHINGTON: Well, Draymond Green is undoubtedly one of the smartest players in the NBA. He's a defensive genius. The offense revolves around him. And so he's an envelope pusher. He's always been right on the edge of doing whatever it takes to win. And defensively and just in all of these very physical situations, because basketball is a contact sport, he pushes the envelope and his strategy is sort of getting too far down the road. And the NBA is saying that he's got to stop.

INSKEEP: And that is an interesting thing because, as you say, basketball is a contact sport. I guess, technically, it's not supposed to be, right? It's not supposed to be like football. There are all these rules about when and how you can touch the other person. And that's what you're saying when you're saying Green is pushing the envelope. He's going beyond what would be expected under the rules.

WASHINGTON: Well, absolutely, a spinning chop to the head is not within the rules. And you have to know the line, you know? But clearly, the thing is that Draymond has a problem here. And what's going on - they're not basketball plays. They are dangerous. What if he had hit his opponent in the eye or something like that? He's already punched a teammate in practice. He's already stomped on another player's chest during a game. And so this is sort of an unprecedented repeat type of situation for the NBA. And they have this indefinite suspension.

INSKEEP: Do the fans want this kind of physicality the way that hockey fans are said to want some?

WASHINGTON: No, they do not. We don't want to see anybody getting punched. We want to see buckets. We want to see dunks, passes.

INSKEEP: And is the NBA, then, more broadly cracking down beyond this one player?

WASHINGTON: I think the NBA is really trying to help Draymond. You know, this indefinite suspension - that is saying that, we need to help you to overcome this tendency that you have. And that's why we're going to require you to get some counseling during the suspension in order for you to return to play.

INSKEEP: Help me help you. Jesse Washington, thanks so much.

WASHINGTON: You're welcome. Peace.

INSKEEP: He's a senior writer at ESPN's Andscape. He joined us on Skype.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.