Indiana Pacers Coach Frank Vogel looks on during a game against the New York… (Elsa / Getty Images )
MIAMI — — Indiana Pacers Coach Frank Vogel stressed Monday he meant no disrespect to the Miami Heat in his postgame comments Saturday night and took to South Florida radio to clear the air.
After the Pacers eliminated the New York Knicks in Saturday's Game 6 of that Eastern Conference semifinal series, Vogel said:
"This is not about getting back at Miami. You're in the final four, you're competing for a championship, you're competing for a championship. And they're just the next team that's in our way. And that's how we're approaching it."
Vogel said Monday he was not minimizing the Heat's accomplishments as defending NBA champions, with the teams to open the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"I'm sitting with my daughters on my lap, and in elation that we just beat the Knicks," Vogel told WQAM of the scene when he made the comment. "I wasn't really thinking about saying anything dismissive or anything like that.
"Obviously, we do have a great deal of respect for them. They're the defending champs and they're even better this year than they were last year. So there's no lack of respect there. And I think, just, there was a quote taken out of context."
Earlier, through the team's online wing, he issued a statement that clarified the comment that had received a Sunday rebuke from Heat forward LeBron James, "Sorry sports world, the words 'just another team' never came out of my mouth. Great respect for LBJ and the champs. Looking forward to [a] great series."
He then said at the Pacers' practice in Indianapolis, "This series is not about bulletin-board material or trash-talking. It's two teams playing at an extremely high level competing for a conference championship."
Like Vogel, James by Monday also had moved on.
"I mean," the Heat forward said, "we have respect for them. I said that [Sunday], as well. And it's our next opponent. We're looking forward to the matchup. They're here for a reason. We're very excited about the opportunity to go against them. It should be fun. It's two really good teams, and it's the four best teams in the league that are in the conference finals."
Asked at Monday's practice about the back-and-forth, Pacers center Roy Hibbert said, "I could care less."
Hibbert was effusive in his praise of the Heat.
"They look all around like a better team this year than they were last year," he told reporters. "It's going to be a real tough task."
To the Pacers, it's about taking the next step.
"Obviously, we remember what happened last year," forward Paul George said. "That's always going to be on our mind facing this team. But we're happy we overcame the things we've overcome to make it to this point. We're not happy to get to this stage right now; we want to get past this one too."
During his WQAM interview, Vogel said he was not backing down from his confidence, having been ousted by the Heat in six games in last season's Eastern Conference semifinals.
"We're definitely confident," he said. "We've got a good basketball team. But they've got a great basketball team. So we know we're going to have to play our best basketball to beat them and that's all we're trying to do."
Prior to last season's series, Vogel called the Heat "the biggest-flopping team in the NBA." He was fined $15,000 by the NBA for that comment.
Asked Monday during his radio interview whether he had come to regret that comment, he said, yes, "because I got fined. I don't want to give away money."