MIAMI - Udonis Haslem’s pleas of innocence fell on deaf ears.
The Miami forward was suspended for Monday’s Game 2 of the Heat’s first-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls, a penalty the NBA levied after Haslem threw his mouthpiece toward referee Joey Crawford in the series opener.
Haslem — who called NBA vice president Stu Jackson after being ejected Saturday to insist that he did not attempt to hit Crawford with the mouthpiece — was not at the arena Monday night. His team expressed displeasure and disappointment in the punishment.
“I’ve got to watch out what I say,” Heat coach Pat Riley said. “I thought the ejection was more than enough of a penalty.”
Haslem was ejected with 4:11 left in the opening half of the Heat’s 111-106 win in Game 1. He wound up on the floor after jostling with three Bulls for an offensive rebound, and — incensed over no foul being called — reached for his mouthpiece and threw it in Crawford’s direction while play was headed the other way.
Crawford immediately signaled Haslem’s ejection. Haslem apologized after the game, saying he tossed the piece of plastic at the ground and that it bounced toward Crawford.
“I was always wondering, when the ball was going that way ... why (Crawford) wasn’t looking down the floor,” Riley said. “I’ll leave that to you. ... It’s just a very unfortunate thing for us right now.”
The NBA announced the sanction after the Heat’s morning shootaround practice, which Haslem participated in. He left the arena without speaking to reporters.
“He’s really down,” said Jason Levien, Haslem’s agent. “I think he really feels like he let the team down. He’s disappointed in the league’s call, but he’s accepting of it. ... He’ll be on pins and needles tonight, because if the Heat don’t win he’ll take that very personally.”
The move left Miami’s front line shorthanded on Monday, since backup center Alonzo Mourning is still sidelined, recovering from a torn calf muscle. He was not available for Game 2, and no timetable is in place for his return to the court.
Mourning has missed Miami’s last 15 games since tearing a calf muscle in an 82-73 loss at Detroit on March 22. He has been rehabilitating and said last week that the muscle was healed, but his strength and conditioning level weren’t were they needed to be for him to return.
“Every day that it continues to progress, I’m able to see improvement,” Mourning said.
Mourning said it wasn’t tempting to play on Monday, even given Haslem’s absence.
“Didn’t weigh into it at all,” Mourning said. “My health is the No. 1 concern and my longevity is the No. 1 concern.”
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