After James was whistled for an offensive foul in the second quarter of Cleveland's 107-100 defeat at Phoenix, he and David Blatt argued the call with an official. As Blatt got closer to the referee and exchanged words, LeBron pushed his coach away from the ref.
With Cleveland (19-20) struggling since luring James back from Miami to play with fellow all-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, basketball fans are looking for any sign of trouble. But James downplayed Tuesday's incident with Blatt, who is a rookie NBA coach after a successful run in Europe.
"Coach Blatt was getting a little fired up about it... and he was on his way to a technical [foul]," said LeBron, who returned from an eight-game injury absence but couldn't prevent Cleveland from losing its sixth in a row. "So I just got him up out of the way before he got a T. So, just protecting my coach."
"He was trying to keep me from getting a technical foul," Blatt said.
"Look, it's a physical game, and no disrespect to the officials, but I just thought my guy was taking a lot of hard hits and I didn't like it and I was expressing my opinion, and LeBron stepped in to I guess protect me in that situation, which is more than fine. But what I really wanted to do was protect him."
The push was reminiscent of James's much-talked-about bump of Miami coach Erik Spoelstra during LeBron's first season with the Heat.
That incident was supposed to show James's original "Big Three" partnership — with Miami's Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — wasn't working, but the Heat went on to reach the NBA Finals all four years LeBron was there and win back-to-back championships in 2012 and '13.