Wessel: Wolves can't be surprised that in the end they don't get the calls
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves were victims of the time-honored tradition of star treatment in NBA at the end of their 120-117 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night when Kobe Bryant basically clotheslined Ricky Rubio on a game-tying three-point attempt.
It was so predictable. This is the NBA and it's how the league works.
Star treatment has been around for years. Superstars on good teams always will get the benefit of the doubt over lesser-known players and bad teams. The calls were always going to go the Lakers' way against a Timberwolves team that hasn't made the playoffs since Rubio was 15 years old.
Wolves fans were furious on Twitter at officials Tony Brothers, Jason Phillips and Curtis Blair after the game, but what happened is just the cold hard facts of a money-driven league.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman and his players were smart about not saying anything that would result in a fine from the league, but they all alluded to the fact that no foul was called because it was Bryant.
"What do you want me to say?" Rubio said when asked about the play.
Adelman took a similar stance. "What do you think?" he asked a reporter when questioned about the controversial finish.
The Wolves can whine all they want about the perceived injustice, but there is an easy way to turn star treatment in their favor. That is to become good enough that the Wolves are the ones getting that treatment.
If you want respect, go out and earn it.
It has been almost a decade since the Wolves had a whiff of the basketball in May and until they do, guys like Kobe and LeBron James are going to continue to get every call against them.
Rubio seems to fully understands this. He knows the Wolves need to become the team that gets the benefit of the doubt rather than crying in their Gatorade over something that has been going on for longer than any player in this league has been alive.
Rubio was infuriated after the non-call, nearly inconsolable as he ran around pleading his case to the refs who weren't having any of it. After the game, he sat at his locker with his face in his hands and a towel draped over his head, visibly upset and glassy eyed as he talked.
"We have to earn it," Rubio said. "We have to earn the respect."
It was only one game in a lost season but hopefully the Wolves and Rubio learned something after this mess. In this league, just like in every other league in the world, nothing is handed to you and you have to earn what you get.
Until they do, moments like the final seconds Wednesday night will just keep happening in one ugly, vicious cycle.