Dallas Mavericks star Luka Dončić has gained a reputation as a serious young talent and someone who likes to nag the referees. Go on YouTube and type out his name. You won’t just see his dreaded stepback jumper and an array of nifty moves. You’ll also see Luka barking at the referees while running to the other end of the floor. Sometimes, the Slovenian stays back to throw in a few more complaints, leaving his teammates to play 4-on-5 ball.
If there’s someone who would notice Dončić’s antics and can do something about it, it’s Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd. Kidd believes that dead ball situations are the only time to lobby the officials.
“I would lean toward playing 5-on-5 a bit more. You’re not going to get any calls. Officials, they tend to not stop the game to change calls. You have to understand there’s a point in time in games — dead balls — to be able to talk to officials.”Jason Kidd, ESPN
Kidd noted that his priority as a coach is to improve the Mavs’ transition defense. The most fundamental aspect of playing defense is to stay in front of the offensive player. This is impossible if a player is pleading his case to a referee on the other end of the floor. Kidd made it clear that he is not just referring to Dončić. Every player in a Mavs jersey needs to understand when to talk to referees.
What makes Luka a great basketball player is that he wants to listen to his coaches. Spending his formative basketball years in Europe, Dončić comes from a culture where the coach is the judge, jury, and executioner. So his response to Kidd’s criticism doesn’t surprise anyone.
“J. Kidd, he’s got a point. I’ve got to stop doing that.”Luka Dončić, ESPN
This sounds nice, but from this point on, Mavs fans better keep their eyes on Dončić not only when he unleashes a fury of moves en route to his deadly stepback jumper. Fans should keep their eyes peeled on how Dončić interacts with the referees because this wouldn’t be the first time Luka doesn’t follow his words up with actions.
After Zach Lowe called him one of the “biggest whiners in the NBA,” Luka didn’t shy away from the criticism and said he knows he’s “gotta stop this.” Yet here we are, still having the same conversation. At a certain point, the diplomatic answers stop having any meaning if you don’t follow them up with action.
The Mavs have a long list of problems they need to figure out before referees truly become their biggest obstacle to reach the Finals. Getting back on defense sounds like a very achievable goal as the first step, don’t you agree?