CHICAGO – The suggestion that he’s a flopper drew a grin as wide as his wingspan from LeBron James.
Miami’s superstar shot down the accusations from the Bulls, saying they reminded him of the days when some claimed he was overrated and questioned his ability to lead a team to a championship.
“It’s kind of the same (as when) I heard people say I was overrated,” he said Sunday. “It’s kind of like the same response.”
The Heat are trying to repeat as champions after a dominant regular season, and if they keep this up, they won’t have to worry about the Bulls much longer. Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals is tonight, and Miami has a chance to take a 3-1 lead in a series with no shortage of hard fouls, technicals, ejections and fines. One thing in short supply is healthy bodies for the Bulls, with Luol Deng still recovering from a spinal tap and Kirk Hinrich from a bruised left calf. The odds that either would play seemed slim at best Sunday.
Meanwhile, coach Tom Thibodeau’s wallet is a little lighter after the league smacked him with a $35,000 fine Sunday.
That hit came after he accused James of flopping on that shove to the floor and questioned the officiating after the Heat took Game 3, saying the Bulls weren’t going to get the benefit of the calls. Thibodeau already had addressed the media by the time the punishment was announced and declined comment through a team spokesman.
Yet there still was plenty of talk about that incident between James and Mohammed.
Joakim Noah already had shoved Miami’s Chris Andersen after he landed on a driving Nate Robinson late in the first quarter, and things nearly boiled over early in the second.
With James dribbling near midcourt, Mohammed reached in to take a foul and stop a potential break. Their arms got tangled. Mohammed fell, and when he got up, he gave James a hard shove to the court.
Both players picked up technicals. Mohammed got tossed, making him the third Bulls player to get ejected in the series along with Noah and Taj Gibson.
“I don’t need to flop,” James said. “I play an aggressive game. I don’t flop. I’ve never been one of those guys.”
It probably is worth noting that James accused the Bulls of crossing the line a few times in late March, when they beat Miami at the United Center to snap Miami’s 27-game win streak.
“What I said is what I said, but I don’t want to get involved too much with what everybody else says about us, about me,” he said. “It’s nothing I haven’t heard before in my career. It’s nothing. ... I’m here to play basketball and do whatever it takes for our team to win. So what a coach and players say to me and about me, I don’t really care.”