Before we get to a Heat report from today, a few 6 p.m. news items:
## Sad news on former Heat TV analyst and Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay: Longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey reported today that Ramsay is in hospice.
Ramsay, 89, has battled various forms of cancer over the past 15 years --- prostate cancer (diagnosed in 1999) and melanomas "all over my body," Ramsay said several years ago.
He told me last May that he was leaving his ESPN Radio job because he needed to begin immediate medical treatment. He declined to elaborate at the time.
His daughter, Susan Dailey, politely declined to comment about Ramsay's condition when reached this afternoon.
Affectionately known as “Dr. Jack,” Ramsay --- who has a doctorate degree in education from Pennsylvania -- has distinguished himself throughout his life: for his class and integrity; for his coaching --- he guided the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 – and finally, for his substantive, authoritative analysis as a broadcaster.
He has announced games since retiring as a coach early in the 1998-89 season and worked as the Heat’s TV analyst from 1992 through 2000.
Ramsay endeared himself to Heat fans not only with his cogent commentary but also his playful expressions, such as “Slamma!” after dunks and “Lenard!” after big baskets by former Heat guard Voshon Lenard.
### New Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan, a former Pro Bowler coming off two disappointing, injury-impacted seasons with St. Louis, is known for being feisty and sometimes pushing the envelope with receivers.
He told the team-owned radio show today: "I won't hurt the team by any stretch but I'm back. I lost that edge but it's back, baby. So stay tuned."
### Auburn running back Tre Mason, who disputed a report today that he needs wrist surgery, is among the running backs who has auditioned for the Dolphins recently. He's a projected second- or third-round pick, though the wrist situation could hurt his stock.
### Dan Marino went 2-1 against Joe Montana in their careers, including a wild card win when Montana played for Kansas City. Marino's one loss to Montana, of course, was in Super Bowl XIX, a 38-16 49ers win.
So why in the world do we bring this up? Because the 49ers announced yesterday that Marino has been chosen to lead a team of former NFL players against Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark and other San Francisco 49ers legends in a flag-football game scheduled at Candlestick Park for July 12, one of the final events to be held at “The Stick," which is closing down. The 49ers move into their new stadium this season.
By the way, tickets for the event go on sale May 10, if you're planning to be in the Bay Area in July.
Now on to today's Heat story:
LeBron James often takes a pounding on his drives to the basket, and several especially physical plays against him in the past month haven’t been called flagrant fouls.
The Heat is unhappy about that, and Erik Spoelstra let everyone know Friday that multiple team officials have spoken to the league about the issue.
In the wake of Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts’ elbow to James’ neck late in Game 2, the way James is officiated became the narrative at practice Friday, hours before the team flew to Charlotte for Game 3 of its opening round series at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re not going into this game looking for retribution,” Spoelstra said. “There’s not going to be a retaliation. But there is going to be more attacks. The retaliation will be, from us, to continue to attack, to continue to make those decisions tough, and we’ll see how it’s called.”
The Heat is upset that McRoberts was assessed only a fine ($20,000) for his foul against James with 50 seconds left in Game 2. Heat officials believe a suspension was warranted. “We expressed it with the league; we disagree with it,” Spoelstra said.
The league assessed McRoberts a Flagrant 2 foul a day after the game, but if it had been given to McRoberts during the game, it would have carried an automatic ejection. Instead, McRoberts was charged with only a common foul after the play.
“It should have been a flagrant and it should have been reviewed during the course of the game,” Spoelstra said.
James wouldn’t say Friday whether McRoberts should have been suspended – “that’s over and done with” - but did say this: “It should have been a Flagrant 2 at that point in the game. It was a big point in the game….
“What frustrated me is when I go home and watch other games. [In Thursday’s Golden State-Clippers game], it was three flagrant fouls called that got checked [on replay]. My foul didn’t even get checked, and it was a crucial point of the game…. I don’t cry for fouls. I don’t really care. If the game is played and [called] how it’s supposed to be, I’m OK with it.”
James added: “I take a lot of hard fouls. I understand that. Guys try to stop me from getting three-point plays. We all know the difference between a basketball foul and a non-basketball foul….
“I already know there’s going to be a headline tomorrow: ‘LeBron is crying for fouls.’ That’s not me. I don’t want that at all. It’s not about me wanting fouls or wanting to be pampered. It’s not about that. I’m going to be my aggressive self and get to the free throw line and put pressure on their defense.”
So does he just want to be treated like everyone else?
“I’m not going to be treated like everyone else,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been treated like everybody else. So I understand that side.”
Retaliating is not an option for two reasons, James said: “Every time we hit back, we get suspended or get fined. We tried that tactic. It don’t go for us.”
And also, “The game is different. If this was the 1980s, I would come out swinging. It’s not. I mean too much to our team. I can’t do that. Me being out of the game hurts us more than it would hurt the other team. I get frustrated at times.”
The Heat also wasn’t pleased when flagrant fouls were not called on two especially physical fouls committed against James in the March 26 game at Indiana. But James was called for a flagrant foul against Roy Hibbert that night when “Hibbert’s face happened to hit my elbow.”
Said Spoelstra: “It feels like we’ve been down this road already four or five times this year. We just want there to be a better vigilance and awareness of those plays. LeBron is an attack player. He should not be penalized for his aggressiveness, the size and speed of his drives at the rim. We’re all fortunate [because] that play could have been much worse. It’s not the first time it’s happened.
“You’re talking a top five attacker in this league. Is it easy to officiate a player like LeBron or Blake Griffin or Dwight Howard? No. But we’ve been down this road enough times already this season that we just want there to be a better overall awareness for that because he is going to attack.
“It’s not going to stop how he plays, how we play. There are going to be collisions at the rim. If it means opponents have to take him out because a normal defensive play won’t prevent him from getting to the rim or prevent him from getting a three-point play --- that you have to be excessive with it --- that should be penalized excessively, because that’s what it is.”
The league says a Flagrant 2 foul should be called for contact deemed both “unnecessary and excessive.”
Chris Bosh suggested there’s a double standard at work.
“You see the difference,” Bosh said in how fouls against James are called compared with others. “I know he’s big and fast and strong. But if you get elbowed in the throat, it deserves a flagrant foul. If we elbow somebody in the throat, I expect to get kicked out of the game.”
Bosh, asked if the fouls against James could get worse, said: “How worse can it get? He’s been tackled. He’s been hit in the throat. I would hate to see it get any worse. That’s damn near impossible without actually body-slamming him. He’s too big for that.”
Udonis Haslem said McRoberts’ foul “looked bad. He didn’t make any play for the ball. It looked intentional.” McRoberts denied that and said he believes he shouldn't have been fined.
How would James defend himself on penetrations into the paint?
“I don’t know,” he said. “There’s only one of me.”
Please see the last post for the weekly media column.