The NBA handed down penalties Wednesday to Heat captains James Johnson and Goran Dragic in the aftermath of their altercations with Raptors power forward Serge Ibaka and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan in Miami’s 90-89 victory at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night.
Johnson and Ibaka, who came to blows with seven minutes and 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter, were each suspended for one game without pay by the league. DeRozan was fined $25,000 and Dragic was fined $10,000 for their roles in a separate altercation at the end of the game.
“Well, we accept it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the NBA’s rulings. “It’s unfortunate that J.J. will miss [Wednesday’s game against the Pacers], but everybody else will be ready to go. And, you know, by the nature of his game, he’ll probably be in situations like that where he’ll be tested in the future and he’ll be better with it the next time.
“Goran, it seems like a stiff penalty, based on what actually happened. I was maybe a few seconds or moments late [getting there] than when it started, but that really seems a bit much – $10,000 just for a little bit of dialogue between the two. I haven’t talked to [Dragic] yet about it. I know he was surprised, but he’ll be ready to go and we’ll move on from that.”
Said Dragic: “I was surprised. I don’t agree [with the ruling], but I’m moving on. It’s done.”
Johnson, who signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the Heat this summer, apologized to his teammates after the game, Dragic said. He sent an apology to Heat fans on Twitter Wednesday night, a couple hours before Miami took on the Pacers.
“The altercation on the court was unacceptable and should have been handled differently,” Johnson wrote. “Aggression is never the solution and violence can never be condoned in this sport or in society and I am sincerely sorry.
“I have let my Heat family down and that truly troubles me. I will take the consequences of my actions and make sure that this will not happen again.”
Johnson, one of the Heat’s three captains who spent four seasons in Toronto before signing with Miami, is a black belt and former MMA fighter. He comes from a family of martial artists.
A Raptors spokesman said Johnson had been chirping and glaring at the Raptors bench throughout the game. Ibaka, who will serve his one-game suspension Thursday night when the Raptors face the Cavaliers, told Raptors reporters after the game it was “hard to hold himself back” after he “was attacked first” by Johnson.
It’s debatable who actually started the incident. The altercation began when both players were battling for position in the paint away from the ball. Hand-fighting quickly escalated into forearms and punches being thrown. Replays showed Johnson, listed at 6-8, 240, threw his right forearm at Ibaka’s neck. The Raptors’ 6-10, 235-pound forward then swung his fist at Johnson. They were eventually separated.
After the incident was reviewed by officials, both players were given double technical fouls and ejected. It was Johnson’s third career ejection. He had two with the Heat last season. It was Ibaka’s fifth career ejection.
In light of Tuesday’s incident, Spoelstra said he doesn’t want Johnson to change his on-court demeanor. He just wants him to be smarter when things get chippy.
“Yeah, I don’t want him to back off at all what kind of personality he brings to the game,” Spoelstra said. “He brings a physicality. He brings and edginess. He brings a toughness that we like. That’s not about whether he’s toeing the line or not. We want him to be him. He brings so much to what we do, that mentality, but then also the versatility that he brings. He’s so important to our success that we can’t have him missing games.”
The game was chippy between the teams throughout.
DeRozan, who finished with 25 points and missed a last-second shot from the other side of the court, hit Dragic in the face after attempting the game’s shot. Dragic said something to him, which led to the altercation. DeRozan then “attempted to forcefully shove Dragic with an open hand,” the league report said.
It’s not the first time Dragic has been involved in an on-court alteration. Last season in the Heat’s blowout loss at the Lakers, he was ejected following an altercation with Jordan Clarkson, who was later $15,000 for hitting Dragic with an elbow in the head.
“What can I do?” Dragic said when asked if he’s building a reputation in the league for being a little too chippy. “I don’t agree with [the fine]. End of story. I’m moving on. I cannot do what I did. I can only look forward and try to be smart.”