By RICK NOLAND
Assistant Sports Editor
INDEPENDENCE â€” The Washington Wizards can talk all they want, knock his headband off and commit flagrant fouls.
There is one thing Cavaliers small forward LeBron James vows he wonâ€™t do.
â€œI donâ€™t fight,â€ James said Tuesday following a workout at Cleveland Clinic Courts. â€œThatâ€™s so grade school. I donâ€™t need to fight. I stopped fighting a long time ago.
â€œI mean too much to my team to let a few guys trash talk and get thrown out,â€ he added. â€œIt doesnâ€™t even match.â€
The Wizards, who are down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series heading into Game 5 â€” the contest has been moved to a 6 p.m. start â€” tonight at Quicken Loans Arena, would be more than happy to see James take a swipe at a role player like DeShawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood or Andray Blatche.
For that matter, theyâ€™d probably be willing to sacrifice all three players if it meant James getting an automatic ejection for throwing a punch.
â€œHe knows he canâ€™t lose his composure because once that happens, other guys are liable to,â€ Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said.
â€œItâ€™s not like youâ€™re going to fight for five minutes. Whatâ€™s the point of throwing one punch thatâ€™s probably going to miss?â€
The Wizards have tried anything and everything to throw James off his game, to no avail. From the pre-series trash-talking done by Stevenson and Gilbert Arenas to flagrant fouls by Haywood and Stevenson to having recording artist Soulja Boy in attendance for Game 3, James has handled everything with aplomb.
â€œHeâ€™s our leader,â€ Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. â€œWe go as he goes. People are going to try to distract him. Theyâ€™re going to try to take him off his game. Heâ€™s just got to keep going about his business.â€
Averages of 29.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists are proof James has done just that.
â€œItâ€™s obvious theyâ€™re trying to get me unfocused,â€ the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder said. â€œIt canâ€™t happen and it wonâ€™t happen.
â€œI wasnâ€™t coming into the playoffs thinking I was going to be nick free. Iâ€™m ready for it and Iâ€™m built for it.â€
Exactly what the Wizards might try tonight is anybodyâ€™s guess, but James said he wonâ€™t worry about any possible â€œgoonâ€ tactics.
â€œI canâ€™t play like that,â€ he said. â€œMy game is built on a lot of aggression and a lot of power.â€
As impressive as Jamesâ€™ ability to withstand the physical pounding has been, his ability to deal with it mentally has been just as important.
â€œNobody can get me through whatâ€™s going on right now but myself,â€ he said.
â€œItâ€™s annoying, but it happens,â€ he added when asked about the Wizardsâ€™ constant yapping. â€œGuys trash talk all the time. Thatâ€™s basketball. Our guys donâ€™t talk much.â€
James doesnâ€™t usually get involved in verbal exchanges, either, but he couldnâ€™t resist saying â€œNoâ€ in his Game 4 postgame press conference when asked if Washington could come back to win the series.
â€œI have confidence in our team,â€ the 23-year-old said Tuesday. â€œThat (statement) had nothing to do with the Wizards. Theyâ€™re a very good team, but theyâ€™ve got to beat us three times. I just donâ€™t see that happening.â€
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TIP-INS: With Boston and Atlanta tied 2-2 in their best-of-seven series, the earliest a second-round series involving Cleveland could start would be Sunday. â€¦ The Cavaliersâ€™ 13 3-pointers in Game 4 were a franchise playoff record, as were the eight they made in the second half. â€¦ Cleveland has outrebounded Washington in all eight playoff games over the past two years. The cumulative totals in that span are 380-289.
Noland may be reached at email@example.com or 330-721-4061.