Luka vs. the Refs: 'Sometimes I Get Out of Control,' Admits Mavs Star
I'm glad it's not just me who thinks Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic needs to reel it in when it comes to his abuse of NBA refs. I'm seeing it. The respected Mavs voice Chuck Cooperstein is saying it. And Luka himself seems to get it, too.
The issue of Doncic vs. the Zebras came into play Sunday at the AAC, when he was fairly clearly fouled on a potential game-tying shot, but didn't get the call, helping the Kings end Dallas' five-game win streak with a 110-106 decision. (See our game story here and our Mavs Donuts here.)
Immediately after the end of the game, Doncic sought out the officiating crew to vent - as he so often does, in loud and animated ways. Coop's reaction? "As great as Luka is, the increasing whining about non-foul calls is not becoming. You can't complain on every non-call. When you do, refs simply tune you out. And as for respect from refs, he shoots 9.3 free-throw attempts - fourth most in the NBA.''
Coach Rick Carlisle's private reaction might reflect Coop's, though Rick's public statement is about how often the 20-year-old MVP candidate finds himself "scratched'' and "bloodied.''
"He’s a guy that gets hit a lot,'' Carlisle said. "People take a lot of liberties on him. I was here for 11 years with Dirk Nowitzki, who people constantly took shots at, would try to get physical with him, would try and distract him, everything else. Everyone else in the league is trying to do it with Dončić, too.
"He’s tough, he can handle all of it, but when he comes over to the bench and he’s got scratches and blood marks on his arms and hands, I know there is something there.''
But the best news of all? It's not that the media is aware and it's not that the coach is aware. It's that Luka himself is aware, too.
"I'm passionate for the game," said Doncic, who collected 27 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in the loss for the 16-6 Mavs. "I want to win, and I just sometimes get out of control, because I want to win the whole time. I'm competitive. ... But, yeah, I've got to work on that for sure.
"I know a lot of times I'm wrong. Persons are wrong sometimes, and I've just got to learn to calm myself down and go to the next play."
I'm glad to know it won't be viewed as Luka-Bashing, then, when I write that the kid has developed a frustrating habit of not just protesting non-calls after he gets fouled, but protesting them in ways that define bad sportsmanship. He yells in refs' faces, he’s started throwing his fist out haymaker-style toward the ref closest to him, and against the Kings, he spent so much time protesting that he missed an entire defensive possession before drawing a technical (that he probably deserved way sooner).
Was Luka fouled on that key play? Absolutely. Has he been fouled other times without calls? Absolutely. But sometimes that happens and there’s nothing you can do about it but play on. Let your coach advocate for you, and make sure you don’t help your team dig into a 20-point deficit at half-time by playing zero defense and staring down the refs from the sideline.
It shouldn’t impact how the refs treat you. But you have to wonder if "getting shown up'' was on their minds when Luka drove to the basket with seven seconds to go and everything on the line.
Except, unfortunately, Luka.
Doncic talks about being "passionate,'' but the beauty of his BBIQ is that he knows that such passion needs to be properly funneled - and that swinging his fist at a ref's face ain't gonna cut it.
"They're humans; they make mistakes," said Doncic. "I make mistakes; everybody makes mistakes. Just sometimes they don't see it and they don't call it. Like I said, I've got to calm down and go to the next play."
This will be the next step in the rapid Evolution of Luka: Morph from being the refs' nuisance into being their pet.