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Despite his team owning the Eastern Conference’s best record at 28-9, Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is not pleased with how referees have treated him this season.
Per ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin, James is becoming “increasingly frustrated” with some non-calls following the Cavs’ 100-92 loss against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night:
James’ frustration boiled over with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter, when he shouted at referee Tyler Ford and was assessed a rare technical foul — just his second of the season — after Utah’s Shelvin Mack fouled James and put him on the foul line after an and-1 layup. While James got that call from Ford, he was upset from his previous trip down the court, when he felt like Mack fouled him on another layup attempt and there was no whistle.
James reportedly heard Jazz head coach Quin Snyder direct Mack to foul him rather than give up an easy basket, according to McMenamin. When asked after the game if his frustration directed at Ford was pent-up anger over recent officiating trends, he said it was.
As McMenamin noted, James was also knocked to the ground during a shot attempt during the Cavs’ victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, but no foul was called. When he sought an explanation from each referee, “all three told James they did not see the play,” sources told McMenamin.
Speaking to Fox Sports Ohio after the Suns game (via McMenamin), Richard Jefferson agreed James deserves more trips to the free-throw line:
This is another night where he’s going to the basket and he’s only getting six [free] throws, eight free throws. For a guy that spends as much time in the paint and drives and is aggressive as he is, for him to be bottom 15 in the league in free throw attempts given that he’s the best player on the planet, four-time MVP, it’s [disappointing].
Despite James’ frustration with the officials, his average of 7.1 free-throw attempts per game this season is up from the 6.5 he averaged last season. But it’s still below his career mark of 8.3, per Basketball-Reference.com.
James does have an aggressive style of play, routinely ending up in the paint and near the basket. Defenders often initiate contact in an effort to prevent giving up easy points.
It’s imperative for officials to see illegal contact when it’s made, but James’ quickness may make it easy to miss some calls. His outburst Tuesday indicates he thinks it’s a bigger problem than just a couple of overlooked plays, though.