MIAMI — Insisting he meant no harm, Dwyane Wade revealed Tuesday that he has apologized to Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant multiple times for a blood-drawing, nose-breaking foul during the All-Star game.
The first of those apologies, Wade said, came during the game when he saw Bryant’s face had been bloodied. Wade also said he sent the Lakers’ star a message after the game in Orlando, Fla. on Sunday night.
Wade said critics who questioned why he never offered an apology for the play — the likes of which seemed to be something not typical in an All-Star game setting — simply made incorrect assumptions.
“I don’t care what I’m portrayed as,” Wade said after Miami’s first practice following the league’s All-Star break. “It’s unfortunate, obviously. I don’t want to ever hurt anybody in this game, especially on a freak play like that. It’s unfortunate. I send my apologies. But it’s not intentional. If it’s something I did intentionally, it’d be a different story.”
A week ago, the Heat could make jokes about how they were out of the NBA spotlight, bumped by the meteoric rise of Jeremy Lin in New York.
Now it’s a different story.
Two plays seem to be generating the most attention from the All-Star game — Wade’s hard foul against Bryant and LeBron James’ ill-advised pass at the end of what became a three-point loss for the Eastern Conference.
“It’s an All-Star game. I mean, come on,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who couldn’t answer a question about what he thought of James’ play in the final seconds because he said he didn’t watch the game or see any replays of it since. “It’s a continuation of the theater of the absurd. I don’t even know if it’s going to motivate me to actually even look at it. I haven’t seen it.
“There’s nothing we can do about it, about the extreme exaggeration about everything that happens with our team,” Spoelstra continued. “All we can focus on is us. And at the end of the season, hopefully it ends the right way, and that’ll ultimately be the only way we can shut people up.”
The Heat enter the second half of the season tied with Oklahoma City for the league’s best record at 27-7. Miami starts a three-game road trip Thursday night in Portland, followed by a game at Utah — and then, in a nationally televised game that probably got a whole lot more interesting, at the Lakers on Sunday afternoon.
Bryant, who stayed in the game after the Wade hit, is not expected to miss any games and James downplayed the foul Tuesday.
“D-Wade didn’t, at all, go for a hard foul,” James said. “He went to wrap his arms up and accidentally hit him in the nose. … He meant to foul him but he didn’t mean to hard-foul him like that.”
Wade acknowledged that he did try to foul Bryant, and said he did so to stop the clock so he could approach a nearby referee to complain about fouls that he felt were committed against him and went uncalled.
So not long after a Pro Bowl that was deemed by NFL fans and even Commissioner Roger Goodell as lacking any real sense of competition, the NBA’s version of a star-studded exhibition got too fiery down the stretch by some standards.
“Hey, what do you want?” Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “It was all about the game. It came down to the last possession. It was all for the fans. That’s what they want. You get competitors out there, it may go a certain particular way for a limited amount a time, but after a while guys, they’re really going to get after it. And those make the best games.
“That’s what people want to see.”
At the end, James found himself in the spotlight.
The East trailed by two points when James got the ball with about five seconds left near midcourt. Guarded by Bryant, James dribbled right, then tried slinging a one-handed diagonal pass back to his left. The pass was stolen by Blake Griffin, who made one free throw to close the scoring in the West’s 152-149 win.
Bryant told James to shoot the ball and James said afterwards he let his team down. But it didn’t end there.
That play has been questioned since.
“Is that something new?” James asked, rhetorically on Tuesday.
Wade apparently was ready to put the All-Star game behind him and said he was done discussing the issue after Tuesday. However, it’s almost certain to come up again when the Heat head out to face Bryant and the Lakers over the weekend.
“When I saw the blood in his nose, I was like, ‘Obviously, I wasn’t trying to do that, man,'” Wade said. “I don’t know if anybody wants me to get down on my knees in front of the world and do it. I don’t have to do that. … I send my apologies to Kobe and I move on from it.”