It remains unclear where exactly this fan with a front-row seat for Monday night's matchup between the Utah Jazz and Miami Heat was directing his courtside chatter, but whomever his intended target, his words brought about a result he probably hadn't bargained for — an invitation to raise up and get the heck out of EnergySolutions Arena.
The odd incident took place at the 3:01 mark of the third quarter, with the Jazz leading the defending champs by 20. With the ball on the sideline and Wade about to trigger an inbounds pass, the Jazz TV feed on Root Sports picked up a security guard who walking the boundary and approaching a young man in a black hat. She touched his left arm and gestured to the right, appearing to ask the fan to exit his seat and come with her, as Wade stood just to the side of the scene. The fan seemed to be talking to Wade, who stepped aside and allowed the security guard and fan to exit; the fan appeared to continue his chatter as he exited the seating area and play resumed.
What's weird is, we don't have any concrete facts on why the dude got chucked. Text accompanying a video clip of the incident on NBA.com suggests the fan was ejected for heckling Wade, but after the game, according to Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald, Wade said the fan got the gate for saying something to the official who initiated the heave-ho. That official? Courtney Kirkland, whom BDL readers might remember for catching air to block a free-throw attempt by Brooklyn Nets forward Kris Humphries earlier this season. If Walt "Clyde" Frazier doesn't refer to Kirkland's "rejecting and ejecting prowess" the next time he refs a New York Knicks game, I will be very disappointed, indeed.
As the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman noted, it was the second time in as many Heat road games that a courtside fan has been ejected. During Miami's 128-99 win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday, though, it was a Heat fan who was tossed for heckling Kings coach Keith Smart early in the third quarter with Miami up by 20 points.
Interestingly enough, the heckling fan wasn't the only one to receive an early exit from the game; Wade got one, too. His hook, though, came not from Kirkland but from Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
After scoring 11 points on 11 field-goal attempts, grabbing five rebounds and dishing four assists through three quarters, the eight-time NBA All-Star didn't play a second of the fourth quarter on Monday, spending the final frame seated alongside Chris Bosh (14 points on 12 shots, but just one rebound in 26 minutes after starting at center) and watching a five-man unit of LeBron James, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Joel Anthony cut a 19-point Utah lead down to just two points with 3 1/2 minutes remaining. The comeback bid would eventually fall short, as seven late Gordon Hayward points helped Utah salt away a a 104-97 win.
When Wade spoke after the game, "the tone of his voice was so low you had to be very close to hear his mostly monosyllabic answers," according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune, and what he said wasn't much: "I just try and stay ready. I’m not the coach. He makes the decisions. I’m just a player." Bosh's comments, according to Winderman, struck a similar note: "I was ready for it, but that call didn't come." (The big man did replace Anthony for the final 40 seconds of the comeback effort.)
The call didn't come in part because Spoelstra's lineup juggling came up with a winner. The James-Chalmers-Allen-Lewis-Anthony group ripped off a 20-6 run to open the fourth quarter by spreading the floor with the threat of long-range shooting (Miami actually only made two 3-pointers in the frame) and using the extra room to initiating repeated high-screen actions that put Jazz big man Al Jefferson (notoriously shaky as a pick-and-roll defender) in the position of trying to either stay with the quicker Anthony diving to the basket or trap James off the dribble, which LeBron repeatedly picked apart. The result: A rush of blood to the Heat offense (they went 12 for 15 in the fourth and scored 32 points) combined with Anthony and James bolstering a flagging defense (Utah shot just 4 for 19 from the field) to get Miami back in the game.
But with the Heat again struggling to deliver consistent effort on the defensive end — and, yes, on the defensive glass, as Utah grabbed 13 offensive boards and scored 19 second-chance points — the call also might not have come because Spoelstra wanted to send a message to the rest of the Heat roster. More from Winderman:
Of sitting his starters, with power forward Udonis Haslem also held out of the fourth quarter, Spoelstra said, "I'll probably be thinking about that on the flight."
Spoelstra's emphasis was this was more than a Wade, Bosh and Haslem issue.
"Everybody in our locker room," he said, "staff, players, everybody included has to give more, and that's the bottom line.
"We have to give more to get us over the hump and get a quality win." [...]
"There are certainly more stretches during the course of the game where we were not quite committed as we were in the fourth quarter," Spoelstra said.
We'll learn whether Wade, Bosh, Haslem and the rest of the team got the message on Wednesday night, when Miami visits Oracle Arena to take on the Golden State Warriors, who beat the Heat in Miami back in December.