In Europe, coaches don’t mess around. There’s shouting, cursing, boards are broken on a nightly basis. Not many things drive coaches insane as much as players complaining to the refs. It shows a lack of focus on the game, searching for excuses, and often leads to leaving your teammates dry while you’re being a baby. Here’s a speech a lot of NBA players need to hear.
When it comes to talking to the refs, Luka Dončić made the transition from Europe to the NBA just fine. Actually, he’s too good at it. Last year Luka announced himself as a perennial MVP candidate, and with that came the attention from other teams. With the spotlight come the fouls, and the Mavericks started talking about it. Here’s Rick Carlisle in December 2019.
“He’s a guy that gets hit a lot. 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.”Rick Carlisle, SI.com
Luka is in the process of establishing himself as one of the best in the league, and that process includes reaching a certain status with the refs. I get Carlisle has to back him up and help that process. While Luka said all the right things abound needing to complain less and focus on the game back in December 2019, it seems the message he received from his coach was “complain away.” Even the Mavs radio voice Chuck Cooperstein called Luka out back then.
“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.”Chuck Cooperstein, SI.com
Jeff Van Gundy said the same thing during their series against the Clippers in the bubble. “When you complain on nearly every play, you’re not going to get the benefit of the doubt.” Yet all the criticism didn’t result in Luka practicing what he’s preached. Instead of focusing on the game and complaining less, he’s turned into the heir apparent of Chris Paul. Dončić is slowly reaching a point where even Mavs fans are starting to get annoyed.
Dončić acknowledged he has to get better at this, and it got worse. If Luka can’t contain himself, his teammates and coach should help him out. Even the greatest ones need someone to call them out.