Luka Doncic doing a better job playing through pain than playing nice with officials

Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd has repeatedly tried to get his point across to his best player, but by now Luka Doncic isn’t listening about one particular topic.

Or, maybe Luka is deaf.

Or, maybe Luka has reached that level of superstardom where he lost the power to hear anything but, “Yes,” “You’re amazing,” and, “Would another $10 million do the trick?”

On Saturday afternoon at the American Airlines Center, the Slovenian with the bum right knee again displayed the toughness to play well despite considerable pain. He is hurting.

In the Mavericks’ 105-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of their second round NBA playoff series, Luka was good enough, which is better than 99.7 percent of the basketball players in the world.

The Mavs lead this series 2-1; Game 4 is Monday night in Dallas.

In Game 3, Luka finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. A great line for a mortal, but by the standards he set what he did on Saturday is sub-standard.

“Better now,” Doncic said after the game. “I think I’m battling.”

He is. And he forgot to mention whining.

He can play through a sore hip and knee, and waves of defenders without complaint; what he can’t seem to play through are the officials.

From the moment the game began to its conclusion, Luka was “working the refs” for a variety of their non-calls on Oklahoma City defenders, specifically Lou Dort. Dort didn’t go old school, Bad Boyz “Jordan Rules” Pistons on Luka, but he pushed it.

“Just call the same foul on both ends,” Doncic said.

The kids at the YMCA in Springfield, Mass. made the same complaint to Dr. James Naismith in the first basketball game ever played. Then they asked for a 20-second timeout.

Complaining about officiating is typical in the NBA playoffs, but right now the only person harping more about the refs is Doncic’s former head coach, Indiana’s Rick Carlisle; Rick took his concerns about the Pacers’ series with the New York Knicks to the league, even though he “didn’t want to make it about the officiating.”

Rick was fined $35K for his “observations,” while Luka has kept his commentary to the floor, away from a post game microphone.

As far as NBA playoff games go, Game 3 was not a poorly officiated game.

Against the Thunder, Doncic attempted 10 free throws. The Mavericks shot 25 free throws to the Thunder’s 19.

Your standard assortment of non-calls, in a series that is now turning slow and physical.

And it didn’t stop Doncic from glaring at the officials after nearly every single offensive possession. In the second half, he had a pointed conversation with referee Gediminas Petraitis, and the topic didn’t appear to be Mother’s Day plans.

Actually, the word “mother” have been in the exchange.

“Luka is being Luka,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said after the game. “He’s consistent. He’s always going to have conversations with the officials.”

That is not a verbal white flag by Kidd, but it’s close.

In his first season as the head coach, Kidd made it a point to talk to Luka about this character trait, to mostly say that it’s not going to help. Because it doesn’t.

Watching Doncic this season, and specifically this series with the Thunder, it looks like Doncic didn’t hear, or listen to, his head coach.

Whining to the refs is as much a part of his game as are those impossible shots he makes from those impossible angles.

Some guys can’t help themselves; they have to say something about the on-the-court injustices they deal with every time down the floor. Because they are sure they are fouled. And they probably are.

Michael Jordan did it, and he tried to bully refs. Sometimes it worked. Veteran NBA guard Chris Paul’s “relationship” with referee Scott Foster is so toxic it’s become an NBA story line.

Maybe it’s the way Doncic does it that is so off-putting. The indignant looks. The glaring. The arm waving. The perplexity.

Former Spurs forward Tim Duncan had an array of these sorts of looks with the refs, and it was tiring for everyone outside the city of San Antonio.

Alas, these are both Hall of Fame players, and part of their game is to take exception with the refs.

Doncic is in his sixth year in the NBA, and don’t expect his “chat sessions” with the refs to change any time soon, or ever.

He’s a great player and teammate who currently is playing through a lot, without complaint, but he can’t deal with the refs.