By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The 2016 NBA Playoffs have delivered some riveting games through the first two rounds and change. But, unfortunately, the awesomeness of the games was overshadowed this past weekend by two cringeworthy incidents involving two of the league’s most high-profile players.READ MORE: Boston makes top 20 in ranking of America's 'best places to live'
LeBron James, who so desperately wants to be the face of the league, would be devastated if that pretty face got smacked. And if another player’s arm so much as grazes LeBron’s chin, you’d better believe he’s going to make sure the referees notice. Despite never, ever needing to flop, James did it again Saturday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
Watch as a flailing arm catches the mouth and chin area of LeBron, who acts as if a SWAT team had just blasted him with a beanbag bullet and then table-topped him to the ground. The performance worked at first, as LeBron drew a technical foul on the Raptors’ DeMarre Carroll, but the foul was overturned when refs realized it was not Carroll but James’ own teammate Tristan Thompson who hit him.
It appears that the contact with James’ mouth is legit, but not nearly violent enough to warrant such a theatrical display. James told reporters after the game that he was “not trying to sell a call” while constantly looking away, closing his eyes, and obtusely chuckling at the very idea of him flopping.
You don’t need to be a CIA operative to see that LeBron generally looked like a big fat liar during that presser. And this whole incident came from a guy who once said: “I don’t need to flop. I don’t even know how to do it. So it doesn’t mean much to me.”
The objectionable antics didn’t stop with LeBron over the weekend. Warriors forward Draymond Green could be in trouble after kicking Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams right in the crotch area – for the second time in as many games. The first incident, a knee to the privates during a jump shot in Game 2, could be argued as an accident.
The second? It’s a wonder how Green didn’t send Adams through the Chase Center roof:READ MORE: Weekend heat likely to break records with low-mid 90s in the forecast
The last incident, which occurred during Sunday night’s Thunder blowout win in Game 3, drew a flagrant 1 foul call and could be subject to further discipline from the NBA.
Green told reporters that he thought the foul might have been rescinded and even denied any intention to send Adams’ private parts hurtling into outer space. Not that he or LeBron should be expected to admit to their actions, especially with potential discipline still to come, but to do it with such a smugly incredulous attitude is pretty insulting to fans and followers of the game.
There’s no place in any sport for the amount of flopping and bush-league antics that happens in the NBA, whose efforts to curb it have not seemed to make a dent in the mindsets of players, especially when some of the very best players in the league are doing it.
I’m no Bob Ryan when it comes to basketball coverage, but you do not need to be an expert to know that flops and crotch-kicks have no place in pro sports, especially not from world-class talents like James and Green. It pains me that I have to comment on this rubbish rather than the wild back-and-forth between the Warriors and Thunder or James’ domination that came before and after the flop as he battles for a third NBA championship.
Until the NBA starts imposing draconian penalties for flopping and cheap shots, there’s not much reason to believe that paltry fines (by pro athlete standards) would make any kind of difference. It’s one thing to go easy on the penalty in the moment that it happens, but actions like LeBron’s flop and Green’s kick should be “zero tolerance” kind of behavior that is easily differentiated from legitimate reactions.
It may be a slippery slope for the NBA to tread, but it’s a better option than what you have now. James and Green should be worried about their game statuses, but instead, they will continue to engage in tomfoolery with little to no real consequence.
The NBA Playoffs can be must-watch action at times, but for the quality of the product, actions like those of James and Green are a painful low blow.MORE NEWS: 2 Burlington driveway workers seriously burned when dump truck contacts live wires
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.