If LeBron James is crying about hard fouls now, how many towels will he need in April, May and June when the game turns physical?
The Heat’s winning streak may be over but according to LeBron, the hitting streak continues. Meaning he has lost track of the number of times he gets punished, sometimes flagrantly, when he attacks the rim.
He spent more time complaining about that than the end of the streak. LeBron made a point to explain how, based on his perception, the referees aren’t quick to issue flagrants. The issue boiled in the Wednesday loss in Chicago when LeBron was lassoed by Taj Gibson and tackled by Kirk Hinrich (who took the brunt of the blow). In both cases, the Bulls were whistled for personal fouls, and the referees even reviewed the Gibson play and didn’t see any intent.
“I’ve been able to keep my cool and tell [Erik Spoelstra] lets not worry about it too much,” LeBron said. “But it’s getting to me a little bit.”
LeBron reached the end of his rope when he drove a forearm into Carlos Boozer out of frustration, and maybe figuring Boozer was about to lay him out. That did draw a flagrant because … well, because it was excessive.
“Those are not basketball plays and it’s been happening all year,” LeBron said.
Well, if this is true, and there’s no way of telling if LeBron gets more punishment than Dwight Howard, this treatment is new to LeBron for two reasons: He’s going to the basket more than ever before, and defenders are simply frustrated trying to stop him. That doesn’t excuse anything, nor does it give players a license to chop him to pieces. It’s simply a byproduct of LeBron taking his game closer to the rim.
Michael Jordan went through the same process, especially against the Pistons, and he was 30 pounds lighter than LeBron. All Jordan did was make his free throws and keep his composure. LeBron will adjust likewise, only because he must; he’s too important to risk an ejection. And besides, he doesn’t have a history of throwing punches or elbows or doing anything that would get him tossed.
When the playoffs begin, the games are officiated much more tightly and the league office stays on red alert. That will be in his favor. The NBA doesn’t want its meal ticket – meaning, LeBron and the Heat – to become unraveled by dirty play. The offenders, particularly the repeat offenders, will get their day in David Stern’s courtroom.
“He plays this game the right way,” said Dwyane Wade. “It’s tough. He tries to play, and these things happen, and he still manages to keep his composure. That’s why he is who he is.”