It was a dramatic moment in an NBA postseason that had precious few of them.
There LeBron James was on the court, screaming “Oh, my God!” in obvious pain while blood trickled out of his scalp. He had run head-first into a television camera, a violent collision that resulted in a three-stitch gash, a headache and his lousiest performance in recent memory,
Three days later, James will be in uniform for Game 5 of the NBA Finals today, as if nothing ever happened. He will do so without a concussion test. There won’t be a single tough question about league protocol by the media herd, but especially ABC and ESPN, the networks who have lucrative, long-term contracts to promote the league and pad their bank accounts.
Nobody should be surprised by this, of course. This is the NBA’s showcase event, millions of dollars are at stake and it’s a heckuva lot harder to sell Matthew Dellavedova than the world’s greatest player to a national television audience.
Ask the Warriors, though, and they’re a bit bewildered why James gets a free pass on procedures that teammates Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have had to adhere to in the playoffs.
“Yeah, that was a nasty fall,” Harrison Barnes told Balls. “I’m sure he took the [concussion] tests through the team.”
Informed that was not the case, a surprised Barnes said, “Oh, wow. Yeah, I don’t know … It is a little confusing.”
Andrew Bogut was equally puzzled by the guidelines, whatever they happened to be on a given day.
“I’m not even sure what the rule is, to be honest,” Bogut, whose hard-but-legal foul against James touched off the chain reaction. “I mean, it constantly changes like the wind. It’s up to each player and each team. There are some teams that don’t report it, and there are some teams that do, so who knows?”
Cavaliers personnel ruled that James was of sound enough mind to continue to play. After all, he knew well enough to shoot the two free throws, because he would not have been allowed to re-enter the game otherwise. As James said afterward, “It didn’t matter was was going on with my head at that point in time.” Yet James clearly was not himself, and his 7-of-22, 20-point clunker confirmed as much.
Then again, James announced that he was above anything so trivial as a concussion four years ago. “I’m too tough for that,” he said at the time.
The Cavaliers and the rest of the NBA money-grabbers could not agree more.
NICK OF TIME: Steve Kerr credits the small-ball idea to special assistant Nick U’ren, but Balls wonders if the crafty coach merely wants to promote positive karma within the organization. Because if Kerr or assistant Alvin Gentry didn’t think of the idea before then, then Kerr needs to change his title to personnel manager and Gentry should board the next flight to New Orleans, where he’ll coach next season.
Whatever the case, the plan should have been in place days ago. James controlled the first three games of the series, and Andre Iguodala was easily the best option to contain him. The veteran also had been a starter until this season, which made for no adjustment on his part. And Bogut was the equally obvious choice to give way in the smaller lineup.
The Warriors gave up size in the paint area, but every move has its trade-off, and this one was overdue.
ASSIST, MOM: In Game 4, Draymond Green finally played like a max-contract player again — 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists — and he can thank his mother for it.
“My mom and my grandma told me I’m crying too much,” Green confessed. “Leave the officials alone and just play. They got you out there looking like you’re a punk and don’t know how to play basketball. When you sit back and watch, that’s what I was doing. … So I just told myself, I’m going to come out and play and whatever happens, happens. Don’t argue the call. It’s not getting overturned, so why continue to argue and waste energy on that?”
Balls’ thoughts exactly.
THE DAILY J.R.: James, Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert have had health issues lately, but what’s J.R. Smith’s excuse for his pathetic performance so far?
Smith arrived for Game 4 on a hoverboard and left Quicken Loans Arena with an NBA Finals record— most 3-point bricks (eight) without a conversion.
Next time Smith might want to pack a jump shot. He has connected on 14 of 47 shots (30 percent) in the series.
MUST-HEAR TV: 49ers coach Jim Tomsula had this to say about his admiration for newly signed defensive lineman Darnell Dockett over the years, “There’s nothing really sexy about it or anything. It’s just, ‘Hey man, I have a lot of respect for the way you play on game day.’ That was it. If somebody does something good, if you read something that’s really good, sometimes you get the urge, you want to pick up the phone and call and say, ‘Hey, that was great.’ And that’s all it was. Just respect the way the guy played on game day.”
If the games aren’t any good, at least the Faithful will have the news conferences to look forward to next season.
THE LIST: Kerr admitted to a lie when he said there would be no lineup changes in advance of Game 4. Things he could say next time:
“Yep, Brandon Rush in, Stephen Curry out.”
“We haven’t picked the names out of a hat yet.”
“That’s a dumb question. Next . . .”
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you.”
“I know nothing.”
“It’s none of your business.”
YOUR TURN: “Yes, [Matthew] Dellavedova is relentless on D. Yes, he plays with King James, a classic ball hog. No, Dellavedova is not a pauper. He is a hustling rookie who seems to be under the radar of both the Warriors and the media. Did we watch the same game?” — Russell Bratburd, Pleasant Hill
(You’ve had one too many Delly Burgers, Balls is afraid.)