LOS ANGELES – Nikola Jokic’s prolific MVP-caliber game this season has gone so under the radar compared to other MVP contenders that Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone says few other reigning MVPs have never been dealt with in this way.
“I think he’s one of the most disrespectful reigning MVPs I can think of in terms of attention,” Malone said before the Nuggets played the LA Clippers on Tuesday.
“But if you open the dictionary, look up the word consistency, there will be a picture of Nikola there. It comes back to the bubble, it comes back to a 72 game season last year, and this year we got to know Jamal. [Murray] was going to be away for a long time. When you add a Michael Porter, when you add a PJ Dozier to that [injured] list, it gets even more incredible what he does. “
Jokic entered Tuesday averaging 25.8 points, a career-high 14.2 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 56.1 percent on shots this season. Last season, when he won his first MVP trophy, Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 56.6% shots.
This season Jokic has had to carry the Nuggets with Murray still returning from a torn ACL and Porter only playing nine games due to back surgery that has left him out indefinitely.
Although Denver has a dizzying array of players and coaches due to injuries and health and safety protocols, Jokic has kept the Nuggets in the playoff hunt with some of his best basketball. In Denver’s previous eight games, Jokic has averaged 26.1 points and 17.3 rebounds, the best in the league.
But there has been more talk of MVPs around Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets, and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, among others.
“I mean, Nikola Jokic is not sexy,” said Malone. “He’s just not. There’s nothing about Nikola… his wife might not agree. But if you’re a true student of the game, a coach, someone who likes that the game is played the right way, then you enjoy it at the level where it should be enjoyed.
“But he’s not going to be on SportsCenter dunking someone. He’s not going to block a shot in the third row. But if you enjoy passing, IQ, playing the game, exactly what he is. done every night from a score, bouncing, from a play point of view, and finally I’m starting to hear he’s getting a little more credit as a defender, and it’s well deserved. “