CLEVELAND -- LeBron James said he apologized to his team after subbing himself out of Saturday night's game in the third quarter and leaving only four Cleveland Cavaliers players on the court, resulting in a technical foul.
"I blew a gasket. You know what that mean?" James said after the game. "I apologized to my teammates for it."
After Jared Cunningham threw the ball out of bounds while trying to feed James in the post with 6:11 remaining in the third quarter and the Cavs up 72-46, the Cleveland star stalked off the court and sat down on the bench. Atlanta inbounded the ball before Richard Jefferson could sub in, prompting referee Tony Brothers to call a technical foul on Cleveland.
Rule No. 3, Section I, Part A of the NBA rulebook states: "Each team shall consist of five players. No team shall be reduced to less than five players. If a player in the game receives his sixth personal foul and all substitutes have already been disqualified, said player shall remain in the game and shall be charged with a personal and team foul. A technical foul also shall be assessed against his team. All subsequent personal fouls, including offensive fouls, shall be treated similarly. All players who have six or more personal fouls and remain in the game shall be treated similarly."
James was asked what he was so upset about, considering the Cavs' lead was so large at the time.
"That's not the point," he said.
Cleveland coach David Blatt made light of the situation after the game.
"Well, he was frustrated. He knew we weren't playing right," Blatt said. "And [he] thought we were playing hockey. A hockey sub.
"You know, 'Bron is a lot of things -- a lot of great things -- but probably where you're not going to see him is out there playing for the [Lake Erie] Monsters [an AHL team based in Cleveland] or the [New York] Rangers. You know what I mean?
"But he was frustrated. I understand his frustration, but obviously, you shouldn't do that."
When informed of Blatt's quip, James told ESPN.com: "Did he tell you my comeback? There aren't hockey subs in basketball, but I do make hockey assists."
It wasn't the only unusual episode involving the officials Saturday night.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was ejected with 6:27 remaining in the second quarter by referee Ben Taylor after being called for only one technical foul.
"I didn't get a lot, really," Budenholzer said when asked if he was given an explanation for being tossed. "At the moment, I tried to get more. He [Taylor] threw me out, and that's his prerogative. I'm sure we will learn more going forward. ... I think I was very close to him and that seems like it maybe could be the reason why he threw me out after just a single technical. But if there was any contact, it would be totally unintentional and if there [was] contact, I'm sure that's why he made the judgment call that he did."