LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers haven't even opened their Eastern Conference finals series yet but the Western Conference finals already has a huge controversy on its hands.
The San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors have begun their battle for the right to go to the NBA Finals, giving fans a chance to see the last two champions out of the Western Conference put on what should be a great series.
Game 1 was a wild ride, but an ankle injury to Kawhi Leonard definitely hampered the mood. Zaza Pachulia may, or may not, have intentionally slid under Leonard during a jumpshot, causing him to re-injure his left ankle with an awkward landing.
It's not uncommon to see this kind of play in any given NBA game. Pachulia closed out on Leonard and continued to slide under Kawhi while he was still in the air. That left Leonard without any space to land, rolling his ankle in the third and exiting Game 1.
Pachulia didn't need to take the extra shuffle he did to get directly under Leonard but he moved under him regardless. That kind of play leads to injuries more often than not, and one anonymous NBA executive agrees with what a lot of Spurs are thinking right now.
The Huffington Post's Jordan Schultz revealed that an executive texted him about the play, and he too is convinced that Pachulia acted with intent, calling the play dirty:
Leonard weighed in on the play and said it was a basketball play, and that Pachulia was just trying to defend him. Pachulia and his teammates obviously are saying he didn't do anything dirty. Fans seem to be split on it.
It definitely looks strange that Zaza took an extra step right under Kawhi after the ball had already been released, but he's a big man who's moving fast to get into defensive position. No matter what the case may have been, there's no way to prove he had ill intent.
The Warriors would go on to complete a huge comeback, down 21 points prior to Leonard leaving the game. Whether Pachulia meant to do it or not means little to the Spurs now, who are stuck in a tough dilemma either way.
San Antonio hasn't made an official announcement about Leonard's status going forward yet, but if he does have to miss time the Spurs could be in huge trouble. They're already down Tony Parker, and losing Leonard after dropping Game 1 could be a nail in the Spurs' coffin.