Heat’s Pat Riley fires back at Danny Ainge over LeBron James criticism
By Ben Golliver
Heat president Pat Riley is notorious for his silence in the media but he uncorked some top-shelf trash talk Friday, firing back at Celtics president Danny Ainge, who had criticized LeBron James for recent comments about the hard fouls he endures.
“Danny Ainge needs to shut the f— up,” Riley said in a statement, according to the Miami Herald. “[Ainge was the] biggest whiner going when he was a player. I know that because I coached against him.”
Ainge told Boston’s WEEI radio on Thursday that James, who ranks sixth in the NBA in free throws attempted this season, should not have complained about the officiating during a Wednesday night loss to the Chicago Bulls, which snapped Miami’s 27-game winning streak. James, who was called for a flagrant foul for running hard into Carlos Boozer, was upset about fouls he received from Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson.
“I think the referees got the calls right. I don’t think it was a hard foul,” Ainge said of the mix-ups involving James and Hinrich, as well as another one involving James and Taj Gibson. “I think the one involving LeBron against Boozer, that was flagrant. I think the officials got it right.
“I think that it’s almost embarrassing that LeBron would complain about officiating,” Ainge added.
The Sun-Sentinel reported James was glad to hear Riley’s comments.
Told by the Sun Sentinel of Riley’s response, James said, “Oh man, that’s awesome.”
The Boston Globe reported Ainge’s response Friday: “We’re both right. LeBron should stop complaining and I should manage my own team. … Pat Riley’s right. I should manage my own team and I complained a lot [as a player].”
Two fouls upset James: a bear-hug to the ground in transition by Hinrich and a Gibson slap down on his shoulder during a drive to the hoop. He made a point of bringing up the fouls in his comments following a game that was unusually physical from start-to-finish.
“I’m not sitting here crying about anything,” James said. “I play the game at a high level, I play with a lot of aggression, I understand that some of the plays are on the borderline of a basketball play or not. But sometimes, you know, I don’t know … it’s frustrating.”
“I believe, and I know, that a lot of my fouls are not basketball plays,” James said. “First of all, Kirk Hinrich in the first quarter basically grabbed me with two hands and brought me to the ground. And the last one, Taj Gibson was able to collar me around my shoulder and bring me to the ground.
“Those are not basketball plays. And it’s been happening all year. I’ve been able to keep my cool and try to tell [coach Erik Spoelstra], `Let’s not worry about it too much,’ but it is getting to me a little bit.”
James has not been fined by the league for his comments about the officiating.
Ainge, 54, played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Celtics, Kings, Blazers and Suns from 1981-1995. Riley, 68, played nine seasons in the NBA for the Rockets, Lakers and Suns from 1967-1976 before coaching the Lakers, Knicks and Heat for 24 seasons in a career that spanned from 1981 to 2008.