TORONTO — Raptors guard Norman Powell did not appreciate LeBron James yanking his jersey to keep him on the court when Powell was headed to the bench in the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ 115-94 Game 3 win, even if James’ intention was to help him.
“They were subbing in P.J. (Tucker), he thought I was coming out, he was pulling my jersey,” Powell told ESPN before Sunday’s Game 4. “I hit his hand away and told him, ‘You don’t do that.’ I told him not to pull my jersey. We got into it a little bit. I told him not to pull my jersey. If he’s trying to get my attention, call my name, call my number, but don’t do that. Don’t pull my jersey like that.”
Had Powell headed to the bench at that exact moment, the Raptors could have been called for an illegal substitution that would’ve resulted in a technical foul.
Powell, 23, said there is nothing personal between him and the 32-year-old James. It was how he would react with any opposing player.
“I just don’t like that,” Powell told ESPN. “I don’t care if it’s LeBron or if it’s anybody. It could be Kawhi (Leonard), it could be anybody. Just don’t pull my jersey. I feel like that’s a little disrespectful, you know what I’m saying? Like you’re trying to son me and I don’t go for that. You can call my name, you can try to get my attention, whatever it is, just don’t pull my jersey like that.”
James responded to Powell hitting his arm with an incredulous look.
“He said he was trying to help me,” Powell said. “I mean, if you’re trying to help me, don’t pull my jersey. You can call my name, you don’t have to pull my jersey like that. I feel like that’s disrespectful. So, I hit his hand away. He said he was trying to help me. He was like, ‘Alright, alright. I won’t help next time.’ Whatever. Just don’t pull my jersey.”
The exchange came on the heels of James pretending to sip from a beer bottle during Game 1 and spinning the ball in his hands on the perimeter in front of Serge Ibaka before rising up to hit a 3 in Game 2. Following Game 3, James also had a little fun with Raptors ambassador, Drake, telling the recording artist after the game, “Where are we headed tonight? Margaritas on me.”
Cavs guard J.R. Smith told ESPN he did not notice the momentary spat between Powell and James when it happened, but became aware of it once the clip made the rounds on the internet.
Did James break an unspoken rule in the NBA by tugging on Powell’s uniform? “I wouldn’t think so,” Smith told ESPN. “He helped him out from looking crazy. But he’s still young. He’s got time to learn.”
Powell would like James to mind his own business in the future.
“My coaches were telling me that I was staying in anyway, so he didn’t need to do that,” Powell said. “I thought it was a little extra and I told him not to do it. And that was that.”