Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Dec. 4): Warriors' Draymond Green defends his kicks

NBA.com Staff

Green defends his Rockettes act | Nowitzki all-in or all done? | Watson counters Kerr on marijuana | A little Kobe for Christmas

No. 1: Green defends his Rockettes act — Draymond Green has been wearing a virtual “Kick Me” sign on his back over his habit of kicking others throughout the NBA in his work for the Golden State Warriors. Green’s odd habit of flailing up a leg – he claims it’s an involuntary physical reaction of his body, some think he does it intentionally and others split the difference, figuring he honed the move as a way to seek out foul calls – continues to create controversy for the Warriors’ versatile forward. He talked about it Saturday … before going out against Phoenix and kicking another NBA opponent, this time the Suns’ Marquese Chriss. Via the San Francisco Chronicle:

The NBA league office’s official description for Draymond Green’s latest transgression, which resulted in a flagrant-1 late in the Warriors’ 132-127 double-overtime loss to Houston on Thursday, was “unnatural leg extension.”

After shootaroud Saturday, Green took issue with the league dictating how his body should react in on-court situations.

“I just laugh at it because it’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react,” Green said. “I didn’t know the people in the league office were that smart when it came to your body movement. I’m not sure if they took kinesiology and all this stuff for their positions to kind of tell you how your body is going to react when you get hit at certain positions.

“Or you go up and you got guys that jump to the ceiling, and I’m sure a lot of these people that make these rules can’t touch the rim. Yet they tell you (that) you are way up there in the air and which way your body (is supposed to react). I don’t really understand that. That’s like me going in there and telling them, ‘Hey, you did something on this paperwork in here wrong.’ Like, I don’t know what your paperwork looks like. It is what it is. I think they made the rule and make your rule. Like, I don’t care.”

Midway through the second overtime Thursday, Green was assessed a flagrant-1 after kicking James Harden in the face coming down on a putback attempt. Harden hit both free throws and the Rockets scored on the ensuing possession to seize a six-point lead, a necessary cushion as Golden State lost its first game since Nov. 4.

“If you’re going to say it’s an unnatural act, no offense to James Harden, but I’ve never seen nobody up until really James start doing it in my life that shoot a layup like this under your arm,” Green said. “That’s really not a natural act either. It’s not a natural basketball play either.

“So, if you’re going to make a rule, make a rule. But if you’re going take unnatural acts out the game, then let’s lock in on all these unnatural acts and take them out the game if that’s what we’re going to do. I don’t know. Let them keep telling people how their body reacts, I guess. They need to go take a few more kinesiology classes, though. Maybe they can take a tape in class, functional movement classes and let me know how the body works because clearly mine doesn’t work the right way.”

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No. 2: Nowitzki all-in or all done? — Some athletes go out with a bang, some go out with a whimper. For now, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki isn’t talking about going out at all. Despite the soreness in his right Achilles tendon that has limited him to just five appearances in the Mavericks’ first 19 games. Despite diminished mobility that saw him shoot 35.8 percent and average just 12.2 points in those five appearances (all defeats, by a total of 93 points). Nowitzki again did not play Saturday in Dallas’ home victory over the Bulls but he did talk publicly afterward about what he still hopes to accomplish this season. As reported by ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon:

“I’m all-in. I want to play,” Nowitzki said in front of his locker after his teammates pulled off the Mavs’ most lopsided win of the season, a 107-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls that improved Dallas’ record to a Western Conference-worst 4-15.

“This is obviously not a career-ending injury that I’ve got. It’s something that just keeps lingering unfortunately. I can hopefully get over it.

“There’s still a lot of season left. December just started. We know that there’s a lot of games coming, so hopefully sometime soon I’ll be out there and then stay out there. I don’t want to jump in and out of the lineup with soreness or fight this whole year. I’d love to be healthy and stay out there once I go.”

Nowitzki, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, has been limited to only five games this season because of Achilles soreness that started after he played 38 minutes in a season-opening overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers.

He is out indefinitely but hopes to return before the end of the month.

After missing eight straight games, Nowitzki played in blowout losses to the Clippers and Cavaliers last week. He said the soreness and stiffness in his Achilles returned during the second half of the Nov. 25 loss in Cleveland. He has not played since.

“It’s frustrating for me,” said Nowitzki, a 19-year veteran who has missed more than 10 games in a season only once before in his career. “The whole situation is frustrating to be dealing with something I never have before in my career, so it’s tough. But once I’m out there, I don’t want the same thing to happen again that just happened last week, so I want to make sure now it’s good to go. At this stage of my career, I don’t move well anyways, so if I’m out there at 80-90 percent, I don’t think I’m a big help. I want to make sure my body’s responding the right way and we’ll go from there.

“Achilles injuries are tough, and they just limit your movement a lot. Limit my movement 10 years ago, I’d still be able to play effectively out there. But if you limit my movement now, I’m already a step slow, and that makes me three steps slow. It just makes no sense to be out there.”

Nowitzki said the Mavs’ athletic training staff has been ramping up his workouts recently. He has run on a treadmill and did some work on the court Friday, but he acknowledged that significant progress must be made before he is ready to play in games again.

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No. 3: Watson counters Kerr on marijuana — Not everyone “evolves” at the same rate. Can we at least all agree on that? Hardly a social issue comes along these days that doesn’t immediately spark controversy, with an instant gap created between those who embrace the shiny, new thing immediately and those who either move more slowly toward change or prefer to preserve more traditional views. Such debates reared up constantly, on a national scale, during the recent Presidential election. Now there’s a smaller one sparked by Golden State coach Steve Kerr’s comments on the potential use of marijuana for pain relief by professional athletes. Thanks to standard operating practices by the sports media, that led to a question for Phoenix coach Earl Watson, whose perspective differs from Kerr’s. Here is a glimpse of the ESPN report carrying Watson’s response:

…Watson said he understands where Kerr is coming from but is concerned Kerr’s message about embracing marijuana might be taken the wrong way by youngsters.

“I think our rhetoric on it has to be very careful because you have a lot of kids where I’m from that’s reading this, and they think [marijuana use is] cool,” Watson told ESPN on Saturday after the Suns’ 138-109 loss to the Warriors. “It’s not cool. Where I’m from, you don’t get six fouls to foul out. You get three strikes. One strike leads to another. I’m just being honest with you, so you have to be very careful with your rhetoric.”

Born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, Watson grew up surrounded by poverty, violent crimes, drug addicts and gangs. He has a long list of childhood friends who are either incarcerated or dead. From his experience over the years, he said he witnessed many close to him who smoked marijuana, which he believes served as a gateway to hardcore drugs.

Watson said he doesn’t feel that the coaching profession is the appropriate line of work for publicly advocating the benefits of consuming marijuana as a pain reliever.

“I think it would have to come from a physician — not a coach,” Watson said. “And for me, I’ve lived in that other life [of crime and drugs]. I’m from that area, so I’ve seen a lot of guys go through that experience of using it and doing other things with that were both illegal. And a lot of those times, those guys never make it to the NBA, they never make it to college, and somehow it leads to something else, and they never make it past 18.

“So when we really talk about it and we open up that, I call it that slippery slope. We have to be very careful on the rhetoric and how we speak on it and how we express it and explain it to the youth.”

Throughout the interview, Watson continually referenced the youth in explaining his stance on marijuana.

“I’ve never been a fan of the use, but I’m also not a medical doctor,” Watson said. “So for the kids who are reading this and they might take the headlines and run with it, don’t run anywhere with it. Understand that if you’re from an environment or social area where a lot of luck and a lot of blessings is your only way out, you cannot risk that opportunity ever. Ever. It’s just the way it is. It’s not the same everywhere. I don’t know as far as the pain [and how marijuana could help], but I think we have to be careful how we present that to the public.”

No. 4: A little Kobe for Christmas — Roland Lazenby is the most prolific author of NBA biographies, with intimate looks at the lives of Jerry West (2010) and Michael Jordan (2014) among his many pro basketball-themed volumes. Now he has a definitive look at recently retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant, about whom Lazenby wrote back in 1999 in the early-career glimpse “Mad Game: The NBA Education of Kobe Bryant.” Lazenby’s latest, “Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant,” captures the Hall of Fame-bound shooting guard’s career in full and might look good under a lot of fans’ Christmas trees three weeks from now. The Los Angeles Daily News spoke recently with the author:

Q: How much could you draw upon your previous research and interviews to frame Kobe for this book?

A: Some, but that first book was 17 years ago, and looking back on it, it mostly caught me up on how much I didn’t know. There are always a number of assumptions everyone makes about Kobe that are wrong and really changes the narrative in major ways. I should say it’s not my job to defend him, but in changing the narrative, some things are perhaps harsher and some may dehumanize him a bit in my mind.

I did go to Italy in search of the organic Kobe for this book. It always helps when you start with a person as a kid and see how that changes the context of things.

One assumption many may have made about the Bryant family is that his father Joe, having been a first-round draft pick and playing in the NBA, then going to Italy to play, had plenty of money. But really, when Kobe was an 17-year-old in high school, turning pro happened because his family badly needed money. It’s one thing where people assume Kobe had all these ambitions and he was trying to manipulate the path toward getting to the Lakers and he was this precocious kid. He was ambitious, of course, but all things considered, he probably wanted to play in college. (Former Lakers assistant coach Tex Winter) maintained that the real difference between Kobe and Michael Jordan was that Jordan got three years at the University of North Carolina under Dean Smith and learned to play in a team framework. Kobe may have wanted to play at Duke, but there was also a scenario where Joe Bryant was trying to become the coach at LaSalle and form an all-star roster, but it didn’t happen.

Q: Having done the books in the last six years on Jordan, then West, and now Kobe, what is the common thread and what separates them?

A: What combines them all is they are incredible perfectionists and driven in their own way. They were hard on their teammates — perhaps no one harder than Jordan. West and Jordan had more personal charisma. The huge difference is how the freshman year ended for Kobe and Michael. Jordan always said that timing was everything. He hits a shot that gives Dean Smith his first title and the first at North Carolina since 1957, so he’s the darling of Tar Heel Nation. Kobe’s first year is in the NBA, not even starting, but put into that playoff game against Utah and shoots the airballs in a loss. (Former Adidas rep and Bryant confidant) Sonny Vaccaro says Kobe was probably the only 18-year-old who could have publicly failed the Lakers and not have his will destroyed by it.

Kobe did come to the Lakers with a high purpose, and insane work ethic, and Jerry West was the perfect general manager there for him. If there was one thing Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal could agree upon was Jerry West was the one guy they could both trust. I think Jerry would have helped that team get through its troubles down the line, but Phil Jackson and his people thought West was undermining them, and that was ludicrous, but it was their belief.

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