LeBron James’ timing was poor.
His complaint that teams are overly physical in their fouls on him is not wildly out of line — LeBron is incredibly strong and if you are trying to foul him across the arms to take away the easy bucket you better be strong too or LeBron will have an and-1. He takes a lot of hard fouls and some of those cross the line into risking potentially more serious injuries.
But a lot of the reaction to LeBron’s comments was basically “quit your belly aching.” The Bulls were physical with him and the Heat — and the Bulls won the game. The timing of his complaint had a sour grapes taste.
When asked about it Thursday, LeBron basically shrugged, as reported by Ira Winderman at the Sun Sentinel.
“As a kid,” he said, “I used to watch a lot of Lakers games and I used to see Shaq get hammered and he would get two free throws and then he would finally deliver a blow and it would be a technical foul, it would be a flagrant foul. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it before. We’re not ones to complain, but I just brought it to light.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said nothing is changing with how the Heat play.
“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,” Spoelstra said. “A lot of times those result in hard fouls. We’ll have our guys’ backs, but we don’t need anybody’s help and we’re not afraid of anybody’s game plan against us.
“We’re going to continue to play our aggressive game and we know how teams will play against us. We’ll have our teammates’ protection. But we won’t do anything out of the norm with basketball rules, and our guys will continue to attack.”
This is really an issue for the league to deal with — if they want less physical play they can get it by how the rules are enforced. They did that once to put an end to the 1990s clutch-and-grab era, they can move that needle again. The League has to act because the players will push the boundaries of what they can get away with to their advantage — that includes LeBron lowering his shoulder and bullying his way to the basket and the defender being more physical right back.