OAKLAND (AP) — Steve Kerr could have used a little more notice on this one. A heads-up about Draymond Green’s suspension sure would have been preferable and far more convenient for his planning purposes.
“It didn’t happen, so whatever,” Kerr said.
The NBA doesn’t work that way, and Golden State was left to scramble Sunday figuring out a starting lineup and rotation without one of its most animated and high-energy stars on both ends of the floor as the Warriors try to wrap up another championship.
Whether or not Kerr is frustrated by Green’s postseason behavior — he said he is more disappointed for Green not getting to play — there is little time to focus on that now. With the All-Star swingman sitting out tonight’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals, it’s up to the NBA Coach of the Year and his staff to figure out a way to close out the Cleveland Cavaliers for a second straight title without all of the contributions from Green that Golden State has relied on all along.
“We’re going to come out aggressive and confident, just like we would if Draymond was playing,” MVP Stephen Curry said. “We understand what we’re playing for, and that’s all that matters. So we hope to have a great night, take care of the details of the game. Individual guys step up and play pretty special and have special efforts and come out with a win.”
Kerr’s practice had already started Sunday when general manager Bob Myers called him with the news that Green would be out Game 5 with the suspension, and Kerr soon broke the news to Green and then the team.
In announcing the decision Sunday, the NBA said Green “made unnecessary contact with a retaliatory swipe of his hand to the groin” of LeBron James, who also received a technical retroactively for their tussle in the fourth quarter Friday.
“The pressure’s back on them. We’re not supposed to win tomorrow, not by anybody’s picks,” center Andrew Bogut said. “We like those situations. We like going into those games on our floor. We’re going to try to wrap it up.”
The Warriors have clinched their only two championships out West on the road, last year at Cleveland and in 1975 at Washington with a sweep of the Bullets. On Monday night, they could finish off James and the Cavaliers at home in roaring Oracle Arena.
This group had so much fun with a championship parade in downtown Oakland last June, Splash Brothers Curry and Klay Thompson and the rest of the Warriors would like nothing more than to celebrate at home and avoid another long flight to Northern Ohio.
Even if Green has to watch with the rest of the fans who can’t get into the arena.
“It’s disappointing, but I’m not going to let it get us down,” Thompson said. “We had a next-man-up approach all year. Draymond, we know it’s going to kill him not being there, but we’re going to go out there and do it as a team and win for him. Go out there and try to make a statement on our home floor.”
Top-seeded Golden State has ended each round this postseason in Oracle with confetti falling — Houston and Portland in five games each then Oklahoma City in the decisive Game 7. During last year’s run to the first title by the franchise in 40 years, the Warriors clinched only the Western Conference finals against the Rockets at home.
The Warriors realize, at least to some degree, Green pushed the limit with his style of play all postseason that teetered just on the edge of being too aggressive.
Until the league decided he took it too far this time.
“He brings a toughness to their team,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “He’s the heart and soul of their team.”
For Kerr, the dilemma is this: Green still must be on the active roster, meaning Golden State has one fewer player available. And this is a deep Warriors team that relies on everybody’s contributions, often down to the end of the bench.
“We’ve used every single guy during the playoffs. They’ve all been important, and that’s going to be a really difficult decision who is inactive,” Kerr said. “Then as far as the game itself, we’re going to play a lot of people and we’ll give a lot of different looks and we’ll compete like crazy, and I think we’ll give ourselves a great chance to win.”
The Warriors are well tested in recent weeks and months playing without key teammates, from Curry’s trio of injuries this postseason — ankle, knee and elbow — to 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala and even Kerr missing the 24-0 start of his team’s record-setting, 73-win regular season.
“I’m proud of this team because we’ve been so great all year making adjustments, and this is just obviously a big adjustment we’ve got to make. But it’s another challenge for us,” Thompson said. “We’re going to embrace it, and we’re going to accomplish it.”