Ben KopelmanIn the second quarter of Sunday night’s game, Melo took the ball to the rack, got hammered as he went up for a little 3-foot flip shot, and didn’t get the call. No whistle, play went on, and the Sixers pushed down court while Melo, in what has become a regular routine, put his hands up in are-you-serious-old-man??! protest, as the Knicks gave up a fast-break bucket.
If you missed it Sunday night, no worries, you’ve seen this act a few times over the last eight weeks. If not from Melo, then from Tyson; or J.R.; or Felton; or STAT, who prefers the rip-your-goggles-off-like-you-mean-it approach to argue a missed call.
It has become a terribly bad habit of a team that has lost its swagger since its blistering start, and one I am sure most fans would love to see them kick. As we lose by 30+ to the Pacers, there is nothing cute about J.R. Smith adding insult to injury, stomping around like a spoiled brat. Throwing a hissy fit like a bunch of middle schoolers is unbecoming of any professional, no matter the arena in which he or she works.
But boys will be boys, and grown men have been known to complain to refs before. Tim Duncan used to cry more than anybody, and all he did was win four rings in eight years. Kobe is notorious for scolding refs, and he’s Kobe, so…yeah, pretty accomplished; ditto Lebron in last year’s playoffs. Even if it’s tacky, there is a track record of guys bitching and moaning their way to the winner’s circle.
So this reoccurring problem is not a problem simply because it is reoccurring. Rather, the temper tantrums have become a problem because they coincide with losing.
When a player scoffs at a whistle (or lack thereof), he is usually intimating one of two things: (1) MY GOD, ref, that’s an awful call, and I’m gonna make sure you know I know it was a bad call, and that the TV cameras catch me letting you know I know it was a bad call, so do NOT make it again; or (2) f*** you, maaaaan, I’m over this s***.
Players can feed off #1. Not so much #2 — and the Knicks are aaaaaaaaalllllll about #2. That’s why it is depressing, problematic, annoying, being discussed.
Physicality and passion are huge assets — especially for this team. Going deep into the playoffs only happens by playing strong, hard-nosed defense like we did to start the season. So we need to accept that there are going to be hacks and fouls that don’t get whistled. We need to harness that energy for good, not evil. Rather than playing the woe-is-me game, the team needs to use the bad calls as motivation. Play with that chip on your shoulder. Let it be a reminder that no one respects you, Melo. Let it be another example that you’re still not considered a superstar, Tyson. Let it be the hundredth indication that the Knicks have not won anything yet, and have not earned the same deference as other top teams.
Use that string of bad calls to come together as a team: the refs aren’t going to help us tonight, men — we’re gonna have to do it alone — keep swinging the ball, defense on three…
One way to get superstar treatment is to play like a superstar, regardless of which way the whistles go; to play tough defense and revel in the chippy foul calls, almost as if the other team needs them to even have a shot in the game; to trash talk the other team, not the referees; and yes, to let the refs know when they screw up, but then to get right back into playing.
The other option is to keep on complaining and waiting for the respect to be handed over.
My vote? Get out there and earn it.