Heat irked by hard fouls, but won’t let Bobcats bait them into retaliating
MIAMI — There was a time when LeBron James would have reacted differently to taking a forearm to the throat while driving to the rim.
"If it was the ’80s, then I come up swinging," James said Friday, "but it’s not the ’80s.
"I mean too much to our team and I can’t do that. Me being out of the game hurts us more than it’s going to hurt the other team. So I got to keep my composure. I get frustrated at times, but I understand how much I mean to this team and me being in the locker room ain’t helpful."
James went to the floor briefly, struggling to catch his breath, after being hit in the neck by Charlotte forward Josh McRoberts with 50 seconds remaining in Miami’s 101-97 Eastern Conference first-round Game 2 victory on Wednesday night.
Ruled a common foul by officials at the time, the play was upgraded to a Flagrant 2 excessive contact penalty after the league reviewed the play Thursday. McRoberts, who said the hit to the throat was unintentional, was fined $20,000 but not suspended.
"I understand there’s going to contact on my drive, and if it’s the right call then I’m OK with it," James said. "And if it’s not . . .
"What frustrates me is when I go home and watch other games . . . last night I watched the Golden State-(Los Angeles) Clippers late game and there were three flagrant fouls called that got checked. My foul didn’t even get checked, and it was a crucial point of the game."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team had expressed — again — its feelings to the league regarding hard fouls on James.
"It feels like we’ve been down this road four or five times already this year," Spoelstra said after Friday’s practice. "We just want there to be a better vigilance, awareness of those plays. LeBron is an attack player. He should not be penalized for his aggressiveness, the size and speed of his drives at the rim.
"We’re all fortunate that that play could have been much worse. And it’s not the first time it happen."
Despite that, Spoelstra said the Heat were more focused on taking a 3-0 series lead than paying back McRoberts during Game 3 at Charlotte on Saturday night.
"Whether we agree or disagree with the league or not, we’re acknowledging that it’s not an easy play to make," Spoelstra said. "We’re not going into this game looking for retribution. There’s not going to be a retaliation, but there is going to be more attacks."
James also shot down the notion of retribution.
"We can’t," he said. "Every time we hit back we get suspended or we get fined. We tried that tact, it don’t go for us."
His teammates agreed.
"We just try to go out there and play the game," forward/center Udonis Haslem said. "The things you can’t control is what the other team does. If they choose to take a hard foul or a cheap shot, whatever it may be, our job is still to go out there and play the game of basketball."
Following Wednesday night’s game, Dwyane Wade credited James with handling hard fouls as well as anyone.
"A gift for him is he’s 6-8, 260 and a curse is he’s 6-8, 260," Wade said. "He won’t get the certain looks when it comes to hard fouls that other people might. It’s unfortunate. Hopefully, nothing happens where he gets hurt, but he can take it."
As a player who attacks the rim often, James can expect more physical plays.
"We’re talking about a top five attacker in this league," Spoelstra said. "Is it easy to officiate a player like LeBron, or (Blake) Griffin, or Dwight Howard? No. But we’ve been down this road enough times already this season we just want there to be an overall better awareness for that because he is going to attack.
"It’s not going to stop how he plays, how we play. There are going to be collisions at the rim. If it means opponents have to take him out because a normal defensive play won’t prevent him from getting to the rim, or won’t prevent him from getting a three-point play that you have to be excessive with it, that should be penalized excessively because that’s what it is. It’s an excessive play."
James was asked if all he wanted was to be treated like any other player.
"I’m not going to be treated like everyone else," he said. "It’s been a long time since I’ve been treated like everyone else. I understand that side.
"I don’t like to put dirty tags on anybody. I take a lot of hard fouls, I understand that. Guys try to stop me from getting three-point plays, but we all know the difference between a basketball foul and a non-basketball foul."