The coach on the other sideline in a playoff series generally doesn’t get under the skin of the opposing team. But Pacers coach Frank Vogel has managed to do it two years in a row — once for reasons not of his doing.
First, Vogel accused the Heat last year of a penchant for flopping, which resulted in the NBA fining him $15,000.
On Saturday, he called the Heat the “next team in our way,” though he was misquoted later as having said the Heat “is just another team” — which drew a strong reaction from LeBron James. “We’re not just another team,” James said Sunday. “I don’t understand what he’s saying.”
Vogel heard James’ reaction on SportsCenter and issued a statement, saying he never said anything of the kind.
Vogel told 790 The Ticket on Monday: “They’re better this year than last year. They’re not just another team.”
Asked by WQAM 560 whether he should have even said the words “the next team in our way,” Vogel said: “I’m sitting with my daughters on my lap, elated [about beating the Knicks]. I wasn’t thinking about saying anything dismissive.
“We have a great deal of respect for them. They’re even better this year than last year. It was a quote taken out of context.”
Vogel said he regrets calling the Heat floppers last year “because I got fined.” WQAM’s Jorge Sedano then asked: “So you still think they’re floppers?”
“No,” Vogel said.
Vogel came across as confident and engaging in interviews this week with two local radio stations.
Asked by WQAM about people who say he is arrogant, Vogel said: “We’re definitely confident. We’ve got a good basketball team. They’ve got a great basketball team. We know we need to play a great series to beat this team. We know we can. Anytime a team has gone through that championship experience, they become that much stronger the following year.”
He said the Heat is better than the team that eliminated the Pacers in six games last season not only because of that championship experience, but also because “Chris Bosh is back. The efficiency he has on the offensive end for a big man is ridiculous.
“The depth they have off the bench — Ray Allen in particular, Norris Cole seems to be playing at a higher level. Birdman [Chris Andersen] makes a big difference for them.”
But Vogel said the Pacers also “are a better team. We’re more mature. We’re a better defensive team this year than last year. We have better discipline to play without fouling.
“We were 29th in fouling last year. We moved up to 14th this year. Foul trouble last year cost us a couple games in this series. We’re playing a much more disciplined brand of basketball this year. We led the regular season in most defensive categories.”
But the Pacers also were fifth in the league in turnovers and finished 19-21 on the road, compared with 30-11 at home.
But “we got quality road wins in the first two series in Atlanta and New York,” Vogel said.
Asked by 790 The Ticket what scares him most about his team, he said: “Turning over the ball. That’s a weakness of ours, a strength of theirs. ... Turnovers equal dunks against the Miami Heat.”
He said what scares him most about the Heat is James’ and Dwyane Wade’s “ability to just take over a game.”
What’s the most unknown thing about his team?
“Our players’ names,” he told The Ticket. “America doesn’t know a whole lot about our team. We’re playing as well as a team as anyone has this year.”