LeBron James grabs his neck after being elbowed by Charlotte Bobcats' Josh McRoberts on Wednesday.
MIAMI — LeBron James insisted on Friday that the prospect of being fouled hard won’t change his attack mindset, though he and the Miami Heat are increasingly frustrated with how aggressive opponents are permitted to be against him.
James was leveled late in Miami’s game on Wednesday by Charlotte’s Josh McRoberts, who was originally issued a common foul before the NBA upgraded the penalty a day later to a flagrant-2 and fined him $20,000. That wasn’t enough to fully appease the Heat, who were unhappy that referees didn’t see a need to review the play immediately.
"We’ve had dialogue with the league," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "They made their decision. At least half of it we agree upon — that it should have been a flagrant and it should have been reviewed during the course of the game."
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McRoberts’ foul against the four-time MVP came in what at the time was a three-point game, the outcome very much in doubt. Miami wound up winning, but if McRoberts was given a flagrant-2 when the play occurred he would have been ejected.
Either way, the Heat said they aren’t planning any sort of retribution on Saturday night in Game 3 of the teams’ Eastern Conference first-round series, other than continuing to attack. James, though, wondered why he has seen several hard fouls get reviewed in other recent playoff games and why his didn’t merit the same treatment.
"I already know it’s going to be a headline tomorrow: ‘LeBron is crying for fouls,’" James said. "That’s not me. I don’t want that. I don’t want that at all."
Heat forward Udonis Haslem said he thought McRoberts’ hit — replays didn’t suggest that the Bobcats’ forward was making any sort of play on the ball, and it was clear that his elbow struck James around the throat and chin — looked "pretty bad."
"It looked intentional," Haslem said.
The Bobcats strongly suggested otherwise.
"If you watched the play, there was no hit. … There was no attempt to hurt anyone," said Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, who added that McRoberts was late with help defense on that play and was simply bracing himself for impact with the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James.
McRoberts said he thought the fine was unfair.
"Obviously, I don’t agree with it," he said Friday. "But what can you do?"
The way James has been officiated has been a talking point from just about the very moment he entered the league. Few would dispute that his combination of size, strength and speed set him apart from many other players, and at times that leads to challenges for referees — not unlike what other physically imposing players like Shaquillle O’Neal, who often felt he was officiated differently than others, dealt with.
The Heat saw it with O’Neal, and have seen parallels with James. Spoelstra said James shouldn’t be "penalized" for attacking, and he hopes raising the issue with the NBA office again might open some eyes to the issue.
"He is going to attack," Spoelstra said. "It’s not going to stop how he plays or how we play. There are going to be collisions at the rim, and if it means opponents have to take him out because a normal defensive play won’t prevent him from getting to the rim or prevent him from getting a three-point play, if you have to be excessive with it, that should be penalized excessively because that’s what it is. It’s an excessive play."
James also said he’ll keep attacking. And as much as he’d like to, he doesn’t plan on fighting back outside of what the rules allow.
"If it was the ’80s, then I’d come up swinging," James said. "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, it hurts us more than it’s going to hurt the other team. I’ve got to keep my composure. I get frustrated at times but I understand what I mean to this team, and me being in the locker room ain’t helping."