In response to Danny Ainge’s gibe of LeBron James complaining about hard fouls, Pat Riley said Ainge ‘needs to shut the [expletive] up.’
The career-long beef between Pat Riley and the Celtics rages onward.
On Friday, Riley delivered a message through the media to Celtics general manager Danny Ainge that needed no interpreting. Ainge publicly criticized LeBron James on Thursday for complaining about several hard fouls he received on Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls and Riley, apparently, took great offense to Ainge’s comments.
“Danny Ainge needs to shut the [expletive] up and manage his own team,” said Heat spokesman Tim Donovan, who passed along Riley’s message to Heat beat writers before Friday’s game against the Hornets. “He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing, and I know that because I coached against him.”
Ainge didn’t wait long to respond to Riley’s statement. Mere minutes after Riley’s words went viral on Twitter, the Boston Globe reported Ainge’s retort.
“We’re both right,” Ainge said. “LeBron should stop complaining, and I should manage my own team.”
James spoke up passionately about what he perceived as unnecessarily hard fouls against him in Wednesday’s game against the Bulls. Both Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson took James to the ground to prevent layups. For James, the aggressive attempts to prevent him from scoring are borderline flagrant and a growing trend.
“Let me calculate my thoughts real fast before I say it,” James said. “I believe, and I know, that a lot of my fouls are not basketball plays.
“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 the shoulder and bring me to the ground.
“Those are not basketball plays, and it has been happening all year and I’ve been able to keep my cool and tell [Heat coach Erik Spoelstra] let’s not worry about it too much, but it is getting to me a little bit.”
James retaliated later in the game and received a flagrant foul for slamming into Carlos Boozer during a screen.
“Every time I try to defend myself, I got to face the consequences of a flagrant or a technical,” James said. “So, it’s tough. It’s very tough. And I’m not sitting here crying about anything. I play the game at a high level and with a lot of aggression, and I understand that a lot of plays are on the borderline of a basketball play or not, but sometimes you just got to ... I don’t know. It’s frustrating.”
For Ainge, LeBron’s complaining was “almost embarrassing.”
“I don’t think either one of those were [flagrant fouls], and I think the one — LeBron against Boozer — was flagrant, yes. I think the officials had it right …,” Ainge said during a weekly radio-show appearance in Boston on Thursday. “I think that it’s almost embarrassing that LeBron would complain about officiating.”
James laughed off Ainge’s comments after the Heat’s shootaround on Friday morning at New Orleans Arena.
“Nothing that comes out of Boston surprises me,” James said.
Later Friday, James was informed of Riley’s comment and said, “Oh, man. That’s awesome.”
As a player, Ainge was recognized as one of the league’s biggest whiners. During last season’s postseason matchup of the Heat and Celtics, Ainge raised a stink with the president of referee operations after James attempted 24 foul shots in Game 2.
It seems unlikely at this point that the Celtics will match up with the Heat in the first round, but just in case things shake out for another Heat-Celtics postseason matchup, it appears Ainge is already prepping the officials. Currently, the Celtics are seventh in the Eastern Conference standings and two games ahead of the Bucks.
Spoelstra had a funny take on the back and forth between the warring basketball executives.
“I love direct GM-to-GM communication,” Spoelstra said before the game against New Orleans. “That’s awesome.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers had fun with the drama, as well.
“I think it’s cool,” Rivers said. “I think they should duke it out.”
Rivers was asked if the bickering between Riley and Ainge would impact an already intense rivalry.
“Not unless they are playing,” Rivers said.