Kiki VanDeWeghe, the NBA executive vice president of basketball operations, provided a blow-by-blow account of how the League came to the controversial decision not to suspend Draymond Green for tonight’s Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
VanDeWeghe was careful to lay out the NBA’s position that it viewed the Dahntay Jones suspension through a completely different lens.
The call to simply fine Green and upgrade his foul to a Flagrant 2 had nothing to do with his star power and key role in the series, according to VanDeWeghe.
Per Sam Amick and USA Today:
Q: Kiki, a lot of focus on the Dahntay Jones situation. And to hear you talk about comparables, is there perhaps a comparable that hasn’t been discussed as much that may have weighed even more heavily on your mind in terms of this kind of play not resulting in a suspension?
A: You know, I think that there were a number of them. But just to talk about the Dahntay Jones situation, I think that was basically a completely different play. That, you had somebody (who was) tussling for a rebound, and Jones brings back his hand his hand is open. And as he brings his hand back forward and makes contact with Bismack’s (Biyombo) groin area, the fist is closed. And so you have contact with a closed fist, so to me that’s a very different scenario and, to me, a different fact pattern, so it’s very different from what we’re talking about with Draymond, that I viewed as a flail that is becoming, you know, pretty common amongst our players in trying to sell calls. Draymond does it a fair amount, (Russell) Westbrook does it a fair amount, and a number of other players. Unfortunately, in this particular one, Draymond’s leg connected in the same Adams groin area, the same area, as the Jones one, but everything else about the call, or the play, was really different. And you know, again, the ball was knocked out of Draymond’s hands, he went up, trying to sell a call, he flails his arm, he flails his leg, and so at that point, when the contact was made, I think we felt that something more, some additional penalty was warranted, so that’s what we did.
Q: You guys are constantly battling the conspiracy theory narrative, and the idea that – ‘Well, because it’s Draymond Green, an All-Star, as opposed to Dahntay Jones, a role player, that’s why they didn’t come down hard.’ In your position – and it’s not a real enviable spot to be in – how do you reconcile that when you know (the perception)? The second that the news broke on this, my timeline on Twitter was filled with people saying ‘Typical NBA, they’re going to protect the stars. It’s all about business, it’s not about basketball.’ How do you see that aspect of things, Kiki?
A: Well first of all, you can’t take that into consideration. Obviously I knew that I would be subject to some criticism in that area. I mean we knew that ahead of time. And I can’t let that effect – as best I can – I can’t let that effect my decision. You’ve got to make it on the merits of individual play, and everything, all the facts that are going on around it. So you look at that, as I said, the Dahntay Jones one, in my view, was completely different than this one. I realize that it ended the same way, with contact to the groin area. But as I told you before, a closed fist to the groin area right in front of a straightforward strike is very different than going up, getting the ball knocked out. I don’t think anybody really argues to much with the flail. […] But you’ve got to be responsible for your actions, hence this guy got a pretty severe penalty. I don’t think that you can say we let him off the hook. Last game, obviously they viewed this as a Flagrant One. We had three referees in the replay center, and they all viewed it that way. We have the benefit of doing all the investigation, a very thorough investigation, a historical look, and can take that all into account. And I just felt after looking at it, studying it, and talking to all the people internally – ref ops people internally – that it warranted a more severe penalty than that.
Q: From a factual standpoint, how many people did you wind up speaking to (in the investigation)? And then (secondly), the natural question (is) that when the refs – when Scott Foster and his crew go to the tape and they talk to the replay center and they come back with a Flagrant One – I think it’s natural for people to say, ‘Why, at that point, wasn’t Flagrant Two the final verdict in the moment?’ You could almost argue that it’s an indictment of the system at that point.
A: We have professional investigators (who) talked to both players, talked to all the referees, including the replay center referee. And then they come back and report to me. I talk to the game officials myself, and then obviously I talk to all the ref ops people here. And then obviously watch all the different tape and what not that we already talked about. But to me, what the game officials don’t have is they don’t have the luxury of watching film a lot of the night, film a lot of today, and then eight or so hours or whatever it is that I had to poll the people who I can talk to. Again, I think that they made the decision that they made and my job is to review it. […] And then after doing all of that, in a thorough investigation, I decided that – ‘Hey look, this needed a more severe penalty.’ So that’s what happened.