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Of heartbreak and respect: Spencer Dinwiddie speaks (and well)

Did anyone think that as the Nets approached the mid-point of the season, their unquestioned leader would be Spencer Dinwiddie? Well, he is ... and here’s more evidence.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive game, the Brooklyn Nets battled until the very end against one of the East’s best. Both ended in heartbreak... and some scratching their heads.

First it was against Boston, when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson missed two potential game-tying shots inside the paint that would’ve sent it to overtime. On Monday against the Raptors, the Nets found themselves down by one in overtime with the clock winding down.

Spencer Dinwiddie took it hard to the hole and missed on a physical play. No call. Nets lose.

Afterwards, he sat down on the court, looking depleted into the camera and said, “See this is what I’m talking about.”

A clear reference to his comments after the Celtic game when he spoke about the lack of respect he and his team are getting from officials.

Dinwiddie was asked about his comment after the Raptors game.

“I think the statement is very self-explanatory. People are going to be looking for a sound bite after what I said last game. Hey look man, ya’ll saw the game but at this point I was respectful in my response to what happened. We as a team have to play through it. Q (Quincy Acy) apparently didn’t go vertical against Jimmy Butler. Minnesota’ got to do better at that. Q’s gotta do better holding on to the ball even though he got his wrist hit. I have to better on dunking (on Serge) Ibaka even though I got my wrist hit.

That being said, he understands that the Nets have to get better regardless of how the officiating goes.

“I mean all these plays we have to be better as a unit because obviously that’s what it takes to win this game. We just have to be better. I have to do better at keeping my balance whether it be at Indiana or be this game here on the final play. I can’t lose my balance and fall down and throw the shot over the backboard. So I’m gonna get in the weight room and I’m (going to) be better.”

It was Dinwiddie’s second post-game comment about the officiating in three days. In case you missed it, here’s what he told beat reporters Saturday after the Celtics loss. It was all very respectful.

“It’s funny you mention it being physical and not a lot of calls. It’s a tough loss for us it makes us 0-3 against the Celtics. Obviously we wanted to beat them and these are games we feel we should’ve won. It’s become a trend this year. As a leader of the team I can express our frustrations. We’re losing guys to whatever random contact, people are driving to the basket and getting knocked down – things of that nature. To see the same type of respect not reciprocated is very frustrating for us.”

It wasn’t just the officiating that bothered Dinwiddie, rather the lack of respect for refs “shushing” him and his teammates. We post it again because of how articulate it is.

“The other thing that is very frustrating as well is we have these meetings, right, as teams or with PA about respect and so we want to treat everybody with respect because everybody is doing their jobs and they’re trying their best including us. We turn the ball over. Calls are missed, whatever it is. But when you approach somebody, and they shush you or they wave you off like you’re not a man or something of that nature, that’s also very frustrating.

“To already be in the position of feeling like you’re not getting the same respect, whether true or false, it is an opinion at the end of the day. It’s very subjective. That is an opinion. But to have that and not just in one case, but time after time. And like I said, to be shushed if you’re not a man. Those are the things that are really frustrating for guys on this team for sure. Especially games that are so hard fought that come down to the last second.”

Caris LeVert said his teammates share similar feelings, but it’s the players that determine the game. Not the referees.

“I mean, I think so. But we know the refs aren’t perfect, we just try to play through it. We feel like the refs don’t determine the game. I know I missed a couple layups that could’ve determined the game or maybe easy jumpers early. We know that it doesn’t come down to one play.”

Head coach Kenny Atkinson was on the same page as LeVert and said, “It is the hardest game in the world to referee.”

“Spencer had his own take on the refereeing on the fact he doesn’t feel you guys are getting the deserved respect that he thinks team should get, is this brought up in locker room, boiling over, a sentiment that kind of has been floating around.”

Atkinson also mentioned how he is able to empathize with the officials ... if only a little bit.

“I have the utmost respect for those guys. I think they do a great job. It’s the hardest game in the world to referee, I think. I’ve ref’d youth basketball and (I’ve had) parents yelling at me. I just know how hard it is. It’s a hard job.”

No matter what the cause of the loss be - poor play, officiating, etc., a loss is still a loss. And for a team that had minimal expectations entering the season, the Nets have earned some respect in this league.

They’ve lost to playoff teams by five points or less in four games - three in the last two weeks. Just because nobody else believed in them - or respected them - entering the season doesn’t mean these losses don’t hurt.

They REALLY hurt. Just ask Spencer Dinwiddie.

“It’s going to take a lot of maturity because the hardest part about this is that we have so many guys that are on the brink of being in the NBA or getting another contract, and these close losses when they stack up – two, three, four, five in a row – they change the tenure of the season because it completely shifts the narrative of how Nets basketball is played.

“If these close losses turn into wins, we’re close to .500 ball. We’re looking at the playoffs. There’s a different morale, different vibe. Instead of always coming in here feeling a certain way about whatever happened on the court. It’s hard because everybody in here is trying to put food on the table for their families and provide. A couple wins here and there really affect the tenure of a season for a young ball club that’s fighting.

“So, I’d say these close losses in a row that really hurt… they really hurt.”

Still, as Jamaal Magloire, the former Net and now Raptors development consultant, was overheard saying post-game, “Man, that should have been a lot easier.”