Knicks rookie G Nate Robinson led a spirited garbage time comeback against the Nets on Tuesday night, cutting a 21 point NJ lead to 7 and generally raising the level of intensity en route….to fouling out in 20 minutes of playing time. The New York Times’ Marek Fuchs on Robinson’s relationship with NBA referees.

Larry Brown seems to regard Robinson (above), appreciatively, as something of a puzzle – like a well-loved middle child who’s also something of a handful. Brown can often be seen counseling Robinson. “Half the time I’m talking about his emotions,” Brown said. “It’s not always basketball related.”

Instead, it is the way Robinson seems to gesture and express outrage over so many calls against the Knicks.

“He’s like a barrister,” Brown said. “He negotiates everything. I’m trying to get him to focus on basketball, the task at hand.”

Robinson said of his chats with Brown, “He’s just always telling me to keep my mouth shut.”

He said that some teammates, including the veteran Malik Rose, who fought with him in the locker room early this month, had advised him to romance the referees by calling them by their names.

But for a lively rookie making his first turn around the league, such advice is not easy to follow.

“There are so many different names, and they have the same names,” Robinson said. “There are a couple of Mikes, one Dick, I remember, and another guy – a Richard. It’s kind of easy, but at the same time it’s hard.”

The Newark Star-Ledger’s David Waldstein on a similar theme.

Referees around the league have already pegged Robinson as a problem child, a player who complains about every call, even though as a rookie he hasn’t yet earned the their respect or their whistles.

He’ll yell, “Hey, Ref,” at an official, instead of calling him or her by their first name, and make faces showing varying degrees of anguish every time the whistle blows against him. Referees, like everybody else, talk, and the word is spreading.

Referees know only what they see and hear, and they don’t appreciate a lack of respect from a 21-year-old rookie. One official, whom Robinson called “Ref,” gave the rookie the following terse response. “My name is Tim!”