Spoel­stra no pup­pet

Heat coach says he didn’t call for Ge­orge’s ejec­tion

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - NBA - By Ira Win­der­man Staff writer

DAL­LAS — Heat coach Erik Spoel­stra said Mon­day he did not ex­ert side­line in­flu­ence in an at­tempt to have Pac­ers for­ward Paul Ge­orge ejected from Satur­day’s game at Amer­i­can-Air­lines Arena.

In the wake of be­ing ejected early in the third quar­ter of the Pac­ers’ loss, Ge­orge said in the In­di­ana locker room af­ter the game that ref­eree Gary Zielin­ski called a tech­ni­cal foul on him be­cause, “He was a pup­pet with Spoel­stra in his ear and he called it.”

The tech­ni­cal foul was the sec­ond of the game on Ge­orge, which man­dated the ejec­tion.

Ge­orge ac­knowl­edged ut­ter­ing a pro­fan­ity prior to the ejec­tion, one that was of­fered within earshot of the Heat bench.

Spoel­stra said Mon­day that he nei­ther called for a tech­ni­cal foul on Ge­orge nor the ejec­tion.

“No, I think those are just the emo­tions of the game,” he said of turn­ing to­ward Zielin­ski. “I just looked at him, be­cause we all heard. So I just looked at him. I ac­tu­ally didn’t say any­thing af­ter. I just looked at him.”

The glance was noted by Ge­orge.

Spoel­stra said he does not ar­gue for tech­ni­cal fouls be­cause he does not want his play­ers uti­liz­ing such ap­proaches, ei­ther.

“In fact,” he said, “I tend to lean the other way, get our guys to stop us­ing the of­fi­cials as a crutch and get our guys to con­cen­trate more con­sis­tently on the game.

“It’s a very emo­tional game. It’s an al­most-im­pos­si­ble game to of­fi­ci­ate. We all get frus­trated. But I think one of the goals of de­vel­op­ing some men­tal tough­ness is stay­ing away from it.”

Spoel­stra said it was dif­fi­cult not to re­act, with Ge­orge of­fer­ing the pro­fan­ity di­rectly in front of the Heat bench, within earshot of more than just Zielin­ski.

“I think that was more of an iso­lated in­ci­dent,” he said of of­fer­ing a re­ac­tion of his own.

Has his vote

Mav­er­icks coach Rick Carlisle said Mon­day that Spoel­stra, “has thrust him­self into the con­ver­sa­tion for Coach of the Year, with­out ques­tion.”

Speak­ing in ad­vance of the teams’ game at the Amer­i­can Air­lines Cen­ter, Carlisle, who is pres­i­dent of the NBA coaches’ as­so­ci­a­tion, said the Heat have be­come one of the league’s most com­pelling sto­ries amid their re­vival from their 11-30 stand­ing at mid­sea­son.

“Th­ese guys are le­git,” Carlisle said af­ter the Mav­er­icks’ morn­ing shootaround. “I’ve been around this a long time. I don’t knowif I’ve ever seen a bet­ter drive-and-kick, share-the-ball, great chem­istry team than what they’ve got go­ing right now, the whole time I’ve been in this league.

“And no­body’s talk­ing about ‘em. That’s the amaz­ing thing.”

The irony is that Mon­day’s game was re­moved from TNT’s na­tional sched­ule amid the Heat’s climb back into the play­off race.

“Th­ese guys are putting up phe­nom­e­nal num­bers,” Carlisle said. “And they’re not just beat­ing peo­ple, they’re wip­ing peo­ple out. So they’ve got amove­ment go­ing over there. They’re go­ing to be a tough out­fit to slow­down.”

Civic pride

Hav­ing worked to help bring three NBA ti­tles to Mi­ami, Heat for­ward Udo­nis Haslem said Sun­day’s Academy Awards felt like an­other cham­pi­onship to his home­town.

With the award for Best Pic­ture go­ing to “Moon­light,” based, in part, on life in Lib­erty City, and with so much South Florida tal­ent in­volved in the project’s suc­cess, Haslem said he im­me­di­ately be­gan view­ing the movie at the con­clu­sion of Sun­day’s awards tele­cast.

“Oh man, it­was dope for me, it was dope,” he said of the mo­ment when the confusion was cleared and Mi­ami had its Os­car mo­ment.

“I was proud, ob­vi­ously be­ing a Lib­erty City guy, of the ac­com­plish­ments,” Haslem said. “Just hats off, man, to bring­ing an­other trea­sure to the city.”

Haslem, who shared in the Heat’s 2006, ‘12 and ‘13 NBA cham­pi­onships, at­tempted to im­merse him­self in Sun­day’s mo­ment.

“I’ve seen some of it,” he said. “I fell asleep on it last night

“Af­ter I sawthem get the awards, I de­cided to start watch­ing it and I dozed off.”

Of “La La Land” ini­tially be­ing de­clared Best Pic­ture be­fore the confusion was cleared, Haslem said, “Ev­ery­body makes mis­takes. Ev­ery­body makes mis­takes.”

iwin­der­man@sunsen­tinel. Fol­low him at twitter.com/ira­heat­beat or face­book.com/ira.win­der­man

ALAN DIAZ/AP

Pac­ers for­ward Paul Ge­orge was ejected from Satur­day’s Heat game in the third quar­ter af­ter curs­ing at ref­eree Gary Zielin­ski.

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