This isn't a post about the Pistons because, well, there's no real news to report -- two days between games feels like an eternity. But, since there's a good chance the Pistons will be facing the Cavaliers in the first-round of the playoffs, the following is relevant nonetheless.
Now, I'm not saying there's some sort of conspiracy. But James may well be the most protected star we've ever seen.
Do the referees consciously protect James knowing he is perhaps the league's top marketing figure and he is featured more than any player on the nightly sports highlights? I always doubt that knowing the integrity of the refereeing corps as a group and believe NBA officiating is the best in sports.
Still, we've never seen anything like this. Especially at a time when it is generally agreed with rules changes it is the most difficult time to defend on the perimeter without committing fouls.
James is averaging 1.72 fouls per game in an average of 37.9 minutes per game. James hasn't even been in foul trouble one game this season. He never has had more than four fouls called on him in a game, and since March 1 is being called for fewer than 1.3 fouls per game.
In 12 of the 20 games since then, James has been called for one or zero fouls in a game. James had a stretch of five straight games to conclude March averaging 36.8 minutes per game without being called for one foul. Not one in five games! In the last nine games, James has been called for three personal fouls. It's really amazing given the involvement James has in the action of the game.
"It's impossible," said one team executive.
As Smith goes on to point out, LBJ has averaged just 2.02 fouls per game; Michael Jordan averaged 2.6 fouls and, "Larry Bird averaged about 2.5 fouls, Magic Johnson 2.26 and Jerry West and Oscar Robertson well above two per game. In the game now, Kobe Bryant has a career average of about 2.7 fouls per game and is about 2.3 this season. Dwyane Wade has a career average of 2.67 and is about 2.2 this season."
When Rasheed Wallace picked up his 16th tech of the season last week (hey, this is a Pistons post!) he vented about LeBron's lack of fouls after the game:
Wallace also was upset James was not whistled for any fouls despite playing a game-high 41 minutes.
"In a game like that, huh?" Wallace said. "Y'all know what it is. I ain't even got to say that (bleep)."
At the time, I just figured it was Sheed being Sheed, but the numbers suggest he might have a point. (Stat don't lie!) Sheed's tech count will reset for the postseason, but if the Pistons end up drawing the Cavs in the first-round and LeBron continues to be Mr. Untouchable, Sheed very well might reach the playoff limit of eight techs in four games.