Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel is a confident man. He famously spoke with Grantland’s Zach Lowe before the end of the regular season, reportedly oozed confidence, and even had the feel of a coach who thought his team was destined for big things in the NBA playoffs. Then, Vogel took to the podium after his team vanquished the New York Knicks on Saturday and unceremoniously declared that the defending champion Miami Heat were “just the next team” in the path of Indiana. Needless to say, this struck a cord with Miami, and especially their MVP, Lebron James.
James lashed out at Vogel on Sunday, defending his team by saying that the Heat were “a great team” and that they would “be ready” for the Pacers when the series kicks off on Wednesday. It isn’t incredibly typical for Lebron to take an opposing coach to task, and while he certainly doesn’t lack for confidence in normal situations, Vogel’s comments clearly peaked the interest of James and his team.
On the list of recommendations for Indiana prior to the series, antagonizing the best player in the world probably wasn’t high atop said list. The two teams staged a playoff war last season, and Vogel was even fined $15,000 during the series for calling the Heat, “the biggest flopping team in the NBA.”
It is certainly possible (or even likely) that Vogel’s quotes won’t have any bearing on the upcoming series. With that said, Miami is a significant favorite, having lost just three games since February 3rd (and only twice with LBJ in the lineup) and featuring the MVP playing at full-strength. Indiana’s rugged style should make this series incredibly interesting, but if Frank Vogel “poked the bear” that is Lebron James, it isn’t great news for Pacers fans.