NEW ORLEANS — After the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak was snapped Wednesday night by the Chicago Bulls, LeBron James questioned the game officials’ handling of hard fouls.
James wondered how he could bear the brunt of so many hard fouls by the Bulls, yet be the one who was assessed a flagrant foul when he retaliated with a hard foul.
His comments, of course, have drawn reaction from around the country. Perhaps, mostly notably, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said “It’s embarrassing for LeBron to complain about the officiating.”
James was asked after Friday’s shoot-around at New Orleans Arena if he was surprised by the comment.
“I’m not surprised to hear anything from Boston,” he said. “I’m not surprised at all.”
On the local front, Hornets coach Monty Williams, who is not in favor of fouls that are against NBA rules, said the Heat should expect hard fouls if they want to repeat as champion.
Heat coach Eric Spoelstra seems to agree. Spoelstra obviously did not want to give the question of hard fouls any relevance and seemed to be sending a message to teams who certainly will try to adopt the Bulls’ style in the playoffs.
“We know what our identity is; that’s to attack the basket,” he said. “LeBron plays a very physical, attacking, aggressive game. Our players aren’t the easiest to officiate because they are so aggressive, they’re so physical, and they’re strong. And, we’ll continue to play that game.
“We’re well aware of what everybody’s game plan is against us, and that’s to prevent layups and dunks and highlight plays at all costs. A lot of times those result in hard fouls. We’ll have each other’s backs, and we’re not afraid of any game plan against us.”
Days after the New Orleans Hornets went against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, the banter between point guards Chris Paul and Greivis Vasquez during the game remained a hot topic.
The two had been seen talking trash during the game. And, at one point, as Paul was re-entering in the fourth quarter, he could be heard near the scorer’s table talking to no one in particular. However, his expression showed that he was perturbed or at least meant serious business.
“He’s up for Most Improved (Player), and he’s talking all the noise,” Paul said. “Lead ’em to the playoffs, then.”
In the locker room after the game, Paul was asked what was going on between he and Vasquez. At first, Paul said he didn’t remember. Then it looked as though he was about to explain, but caught himself and said, “I don’t even want to give him no press.”
Asked about it, Vasquez said, “He’s just a competitor, as well as me. It wasn’t really about him and me. It was a game where (the Hornets) wanted to win, and we didn’t play well in the fourth quarter.
“I have nothing bad to say about Chris. I think he’s one of the best point guards in the game, if not the best.”
Vasquez was then told how Paul had said, derisively, that “Greivis will lead them (pause) to the promised land.”
Said Vasquez: “I respect Chris. I think he’s done a great job his whole career. Has he won a championship? I don’t know. I haven’t seen it, yet.
“I don’t want to get caught up in that nonsense. I know he’s a good player, and I know we’ve got ’em again.”
The teams meet April 12 at New Orleans Arena. However, there will be two games left in the season and the Clippers will have clinched the Pacific Division title and their playoff position. So, Paul may not play, certainly not a lot of minutes.
This little feud apparently began the first time the teams met, back on Nov. 26, when Vasquez scored 25 points and led a Hornets 3-point assault by shooting 5-of-8. Vasquez kept reminding Paul he was outplaying him. The Clippers won the next game, also in L.A., with Paul outplaying Vasquez. That set up Wednesday’s rubber match, except that Vasquez had a badly sprained ankle and was ineffective.
Hornets rookie Austin Rivers particularly has enjoyed watching Florida Gulf Coast, which played Florida on Friday, win games in the NCAA tournament.
One of Rivers’ best friends is FGCU point guard Brett Comer, the two having been backcourt mates on Winter Park (Fla.) High School’s back-to-back state championship teams.
“My eyes have been glued to the TV,” Rivers said. “He and I have been texting each other back and forth.”
Rivers said Comer has had to adjust to all the attention he and his team have been receiving, particularly after the 15th-seeded Eagles stunned No. 2 Georgetown, then seventh-seeded San Diego State.
“He told me ‘This is crazy,’ ” Rivers said. “He was just trying to enjoy it because he knows this thing goes by quickly.”
Rivers said he has known Comer since they were 6, and that they played on AAU teams from age 9 to 13.
“I was there at his house when his dad passed away, just me, him and his mom,” he said.
Rivers said although Comer isn’t the greatest shooter, he’s a crafty guard who gets the job done.
“He finds guys, he gets to the basket, and he has these little fancy, crafty moves that he makes,” Rivers said. “It makes it fun to watch and fun to play with him. I loved playing with him in high school because it made by job easier when you have a guy who looks for you and passes that well.”
In Rivers’ only experience in the NCAAs, in March 2012, his Duke team lost in the first round to Lehigh.
“You don’t lose in the first round at Duke,” he said. “I didn’t leave my (dorm) room for a week; just ordered pizza and Chinese food for delivery. I was like a ghost.”
The Hornets brought in veteran power forward Lou Amundson two weeks ago to try to give the team some aggressive, physical play after Jason Smith was lost for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
Rookie Anthony Davis goes against Amundson often in practices, and has been sporting evidence that the battles are physical. Davis has had a black eye all this week.
“It was in practice,” he said. “Lou gave it to me. So if y’all see Lou … every time he see’s me he says he’s sorry.”
A bobble-head doll of Davis was to be handed out before the Heat game on Friday night. Davis was asked if it had a black eye, too.
“I’ll probably draw it on some,” he said, smiling. “They’re pretty cool. I signed a couple of them.”
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