Heat’s James Johnson apologizes for his suspension: ‘I have let my Heat family down and that truly troubles me’

Miami Heat forward James Johnson is ejected after an altercation with Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka during the third quarter of Miami’s victory in Toronto on Tuesday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

INDIANAPOLIS – Heat forward James Johnson missed Wednesday’s game against the Pacers to serve a one-game suspension for his role in Tuesday’s altercation with Toronto’s Serge Ibaka.

Johnson and Ibaka were ejected with 7:50 remaining in the third quarter of  Miami’s 90-89 victory in Toronto. The two players were leaning on each other at the left elbow when Ibaka threw a right forearm at Johnson’s chest and Johnson retaliated. They both got in another shot before being separated.

“We accept it,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Johnson’s suspension in advance of Wednesday’s game against the Pacers. “It’s unfortunate that J.J. will miss this game. … And, you know, by the nature of his game, he’ll probably be in situations like that where he’ll be tested in the future and he’ll be better with it the next time.”

Ibaka also received a one-game suspension. He will miss the Raptors’ game Thursday against Cleveland.

Both players were assessed a technical foul and ejected. The NBA announced the suspensions were for “throwing punches at one another.”

Johnson released a statement through his Twitter account Wednesday to apologize for the incident and suspension: “The altercation on the court was unacceptable and should have been handled differently, aggression is never the solution and violence can never be condoned in this sport or in society and I am sincerely sorry.

“I have let my Heat family down and that truly troubles me. I will take the consequences of my actions and make sure that this will not happen again.”

While the suspension is a lesson for Johnson, the Heat don’t want him to lose his edginess on the court.

“I don’t want him to back off at all what kind of personality he brings to the game,” Spoelstra said. “He brings a physicality. He brings edginess. He brings a toughness that we like. That’s not about whether he’s toeing the line or not. We want him to be him. He brings so much to what we do, that mentality, but then also the versatility that he brings. He’s so important to our success that we can’t have him missing games.”

Miami’s Goran Dragic and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan were each were fined for a separate incident after the buzzer during which DeRozan “attempted to forcefully shove Dragic with an open hand.” Dragic was fined $10,000 and DeRozan is out $25,000.

The Heat were accepting of Johnson’s suspension, but they didn’t exactly agree with Dragic’s penalty.

“Goran, it seems like a stiff penalty, based on what actually happened,” Spoelstra said. “I was there, maybe a few seconds or moments later than when it started, but that really seems a bit much, $10,000 just for a little bit of dialogue between the two.”

Dragic was surprised, too.

“What can I do? I don’t agree with it. End of story,” Dragic said. “I’m moving on. I can’t do what I did yesterday. I can only look forward and try to be smart.”

Including the suspensions and fines, Ibaka will lose more than $138,000 while Johnson will lose more than $96,000. Ibaka’s salary is $20.1 million and Johnson is making $13.7 million.

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