LeBron James is not afraid of contact. The man who has been a star in the NBA for nearly a decade and a half has been seen throwing down mean dunks, driving to the lane with players draped all over him and also battling in the paint from time to time. But it appears that LeBron James is doing most of the same things he’s always done, but he’s not getting the foul calls.
The King led his Cavaliers, with new acquisition Kyle Korver an official member of the team, into Utah to face the Jazz. LeBron has lost his last six matchups against the Jazz in Salt Lake City, a place Michael Jordan won two titles and where Kobe Bryant had a rocky start to his career but ended up mounting a big revenge tour as his Hall of Fame career wrapped up.
But the problem isn’t the Utah Jazz or following the shadows of any legends. The problem apparently is the referees.
Following from Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
Cavaliers superstar LeBron James has become increasingly frustrated with the way he has been officiated this season, multiple team sources told ESPN following Cleveland’s 100-92 loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.
James was irate, in part, because, sources told ESPN, he could hear Utah coach Quin Snyder instruct Mack to foul him to prevent the transition bucket, and even with that instruction being given and James absorbing what he thought to be obvious contact from Mack, no call was made.
“Yeah, I got fouled,” James said after the game, when asked about his outburst.
When asked if it was a result of frustration over the way he has been officiated lately, James conceded: “It is, it is. It is. But I know what the main thing is — the main thing is to win — but it is. It is. It is.”
Much of James’ detest comes from the fact that the vast majority of his shots come from within the paint — as 12 of his 20 did on Tuesday — yet, according to multiple sources, he feels contact is ignored, whereas players who thrive more on jump shots than drives have been rewarded with big nights at the line.
James also averages more minutes than everyone above him in the top 10, save for Davis, who is tied at 37.1 minutes per game, and more field goal attempts per game than Antetokounmpo, Butler and Harden. Add it up and there is a perception by James, according to multiple sources, that he doesn’t get officiated the same way as many of his All-NBA-level peers.
James has felt like a target in the past, multiple sources told ESPN, even believing that in previous playoff series against the Washington Wizards early in his career, the Wizards’ intent was not only to foul James but physically harm him.
On Tuesday night, James once again had several cuts on his hands and arms, which were treated by Cavs trainer Mike Mancias after the game.
Check out this sequence from LeBron last night.
The King drove the lane, missed the layup but thought he got fouled and just stayed at the other end of the court, as his team ran back on defense. LeBron hung back and complained, but the Jazz drove and missed the shot quickly resulting in an almost free basket for LeBron. He made the layup, got fouled and followed that up by exploding at the ref, leading to a technical foul.
McMenamin points out a bunch of stats in his piece including the fact that LeBron currently sits 10th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game. But it’s odd that LeBron is coming out and complaining about this but with ‘The King,’ everything seems to be very strategic.
His coach has caped about his lack of foul calls in the past, and now that LeBron is frustrated and it’s a public thing, there’s no way it can go but up for LeBron.