LeBron James clarifies playing-time talk
MIAMI -- LeBron James said his complaint about playing too many minutes in the Miami Heat's loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday were taken out of context, and another attempt to create controversy amid the team's 5-4 start to the season.
"It got blew up out of proportion, saying that I told coach Spo [Erik Spoelstra] that he's playing me too much and he's a bad coach," James said before Miami's game Saturday against the visiting Toronto Raptors. "You kind of understand sometimes what Randy Moss was talking about when he said, 'I will not be answering any more questions.' Because every time I say something, it gets turned out of character."
You kind of understand sometimes what Randy Moss was talking about when he said, 'I will not be answering any more questions.'” -- LeBron James
James' reference to Moss came two weeks after the disgruntled NFL receiver announced during a news conference that he would no longer take questions from the media and would answer his own questions. Moss was cut by the Minnesota Vikings a day later and is now with the Tennessee Titans.
The latest issue with James started after Thursday's 112-107 loss to the Celtics, when James played 44 minutes and teammate Dwyane Wade played 40 minutes. After the game, James poked at the box score while sitting at a table during the Heat's postgame news conference and said that his 44 minutes were "too much." James also said the same about Wade's playing time and suggested that fatigue may have played a role in their struggles late in the game.
James and Wade combined to shoot 11 of 33 from the field and accounted for 10 turnovers against the Celtics. James' comments after that game were portrayed in some media circles as a veiled shot at Spoelstra's handling of the Heat's rotation.
Making light of the situation on Saturday, Spoelstra said he purposely didn't look in James' direction to see if the player was getting tired during a competitive game. James was averaging a team-high 37.6 minutes entering Saturday's game against the Raptors. Wade is the only other player on the roster averaging at least 35 minutes a game.
"We're on the same page about that," Spoelstra said of James' playing time. "He was supposed to come out early in the fourth quarter, but it was way too competitive. He didn't want to come out. And every time he looked at the bench, I looked away."
James said he's had ongoing talks with Spoelstra about his role and playing time, and described their relationship as a productive one that includes an open-door policy to discuss any number of topics. There was a perception in Cleveland that James' relationship with former coach Mike Brown had soured over their final two seasons together.
Spoelstra and James don't want any misunderstandings to play out publicly.
"You never want to get to a point where you say something, and it catches you from behind, or the coach says something and you say, 'Wow, I didn't know nothing about that,' " James said. "That's something that me and coach had talked about two days before the Boston game, and it's something we will figure out as a collective group. The open form of communication is always important in this game, because you don't want to get to a point where you're talking through the media."
Michael Wallace is an NBA writer for ESPN.com.