By Nick Shepkowski –
UNITED CENTER (CBS) Ask two different locker rooms about the abuse and hard fouls the soon-to-be four time NBA MVP received on Wednesday night and you were bound to get two different responses.
In the victorious Chicago Bulls locker room Kirk Hinrich’s hard foul/tackle of LeBron James in the first quarter was seen a fearless and a game-changer. Hinrich himself described the play as him simply “holding on for dear life” and just “trying to prevent the three-point play”.
Walk roughly 100 feet down the hallway and as you’d expect, the tone was quite different.
“I know a lot of my fouls are not basketball plays,” LeBron James stated after Wednesday night’s game, before citing examples. “Kirk Hinrich, in the first quarter, basically grabbed me with two hands and brought me to the ground and the last one Taj Gibson basically coddled me around the shoulder and took me to the ground.
“Those are not basketball plays and it’s been happening all year and I’ve been able to keep my cool and tried to tell (Spoelstra) not to worry about it too much but it’s getting to me a little bit because every time I try to defend myself I have to face the consequences of a flagrant or a technical (foul), whichever it may be.”
James’ frustration showed at different times throughout the evening but none more than late in the fourth quarter when, after officials reviewed and upheld Gibson’s personal foul on James, he raised an elbow when fighting through a Carlos Boozer screen and picked up his first flagrant foul since 2007.
“It’s very tough and I’m not sitting here crying about it or anything because I play the game at a high level and I play with a lot of aggression and I understand some of the plays are on the boarder of a basketball play or not but, sometimes – you know, its frustrating,” James said.
I understand why LeBron is tired of the hard fouls but guess what – it’s part of the game. When you’re a freakish physical specimen that’s never existed in the NBA before, it takes a lot more than an average basketball foul to prevent you from getting a respectable shot off. The hard fouls on LeBron come with the territory of being that combination of size, explosiveness and strength. It happened to Shaquille O’Neal all through the 1990s and will continue to occur to James.
In addition to covering the Bulls for CBSChicago.com, Nick Shepkowski is the associate producer for The McNeil and Spiegel Show. For Bulls information all season long, follow him on Twitter @Shep670.