Shaq fined $25K for criticizing officials


NEW YORK – Shaquille O’Neal of the Miami Heat was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Saturday for publicly criticizing officials after Game 3 of the Chicago Bulls’ playoff series.

O’Neal had eight points, four rebounds and five fouls in Miami’s 109-90 loss to the Bulls on Thursday at the United Center. The Bulls cut the Heat’s lead to 2-1 in this first-round series, and have a chance to tie it Sunday afternoon.

After getting into early foul trouble, O’Neal spent most of the second quarter on the sideline. The Heat center had only one basket in the first three quarters, and said after the game he was “humiliated.”

O’Neal said referees target him and he knew he was in trouble when he saw Bob Delaney was working the game.

Suspended Posey offers no apologies for foul

CHICAGO – James Posey didn’t offer any apologies Saturday. And he has no plans to say “sorry” to Kirk Hinrich, either.

“Do you apologize after all your fouls?” asked Posey, who will serve a one-game suspension when the Miami Heat meet the Chicago Bulls Sunday in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.

Posey knocked down Hinrich in the open court late in Thursday’s 109-90 loss, resulting in a flagrant foul two, ejection and, ultimately, suspension.

Posey reiterated Saturday that the foul against Hinrich was just that: a foul. Not intentional. And not dirty.

“All you’ve been hearing and reading about is the intent to hurt someone and things like that,” Posey said. “Back in the day, the guy would have just bounced up, got two free throws and went about his business. Nowadays, it’s not like that. You breathe on somebody it’s liable to be a foul.”

Wizards coach unhappy with costly non-call

WASHINGTON – As far as the Washington Wizards are concerned, LeBron James’ first NBA playoff game-winning shot came with an assist – from the officials.

James finished off his franchise playoff-record 41-point performance Friday night by banking in a 4-footer with 5.7 seconds left after moving past Antonio Daniels and drawing contact from Michael Ruffin.

“Officials are human, and they see a great move by a great player … or they see a hop-through move that’s a travel, and they say, That’s a great move by a great player, and it’s an exciting move. It’s a great finish. We’ll let it go.’ That’s how I look at it,” Jordan said.

“Clearly,” he continued, “Gil doesn’t get the calls that LeBron gets.”

Arenas, who missed an open 3-pointer after James’ shot, said all he could think about after the game was what he felt James got away with.

“You look at the game tape, you actually see the travel, and then he came down and then he threw the ball up,” Arenas said. “That’s how they’ve got to beat us. We feel we’re not going to get beat straight up.”

Not surprisingly, James said he didn’t take too many steps on the play. Asked about it Saturday, he analyzed what happened with the same matter-of-fact demeanor that’s made him a superstar at the ripe old age of 21.

“It was a basic up-and-under move … all big men do in this league. Not too many guards or forwards. That’s why a lot of people think I travel,” James said.

“I’ve not seen the play yet, but it doesn’t come down to one play,” he added. “The game is not won or lost on one play.”

Told of Jordan’s comments about the officiating, Brown smiled and pulled out a stat sheet.

Then the first-year coach began rattling off various comparisons, noting that Arenas and James have taken the same number of free throws in the series (35), that the Cavaliers have been whistled for nine more fouls than the Wizards, and that Washington has taken 20 more free throws so far.

“Eddie’s doing what he needs to do as a coach, by trying to draw attention to LeBron because of the success that LeBron has had so far,” Brown said.

Then he wondered aloud whether Ruffin should have been called for a foul on that key play.

And he wondered whether Arenas got a favorable ruling when James was called for a blocking foul on the point guard’s three-point play that put the hosts ahead 96-95 with 23.4 seconds left.

“Sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don’t,” Brown said. “They’re both great players.”

Jordan’s complaint is not a new one, of course.

For years, coaches of teams that faced certain stars – Michael Jordan comes to mind – have griped about special treatment from the refs, particularly in the playoffs.

“If the Pat Rileys and the (Gregg) Popoviches and … the Phil Jacksons and the Larry Browns can say what I’m saying, then that’s what I’m saying,” Jordan said. “I’m going to stand up for my team.”

AP-ES-04-29-06 1800EDT