PHOENIX – Nikola Jokic wants to be an NBA All-Star this season, but if it’s not in the cards, the Joker isn’t going to sweat it.
“If it doesn’t happen I’m not gonna die,” Jokic said from shootaround in Phoenix Saturday morning. “If it happens it’ll be really cool.”
Jokic’s All-Star fate will ultimately lie with NBA coaches, who determine the reserves for next month’s exhibition in Charlotte. But Jokic, who is averaging 25.8 points, 12.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists throughout six games in January, has maintained a judicious perspective on his candidacy.
“Yes, I want to be an All-Star because I just want to be in those group of guys,” Jokic said. “It’s not something that I’m gonna play this season to be an All-Star.”
The first-place Nuggets have won seven of their last eight games entering Saturday’s contest against the Suns, and that’s coincided with three triple-doubles from Jokic. Now up to five on the season and 21 for his career, Jokic has been asked about reaching certain statistical benchmarks already attained by NBA luminaries like Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
“Let’s wait just a little more years to get compared with those guys,” Jokic said. “I think those guys are the legends. They are never going to be forgotten in the NBA. Let’s wait a little bit more years.”
Nikola Jokić is UNBELIEVABLE and that's all we have to say about that. pic.twitter.com/UrR17NXogH
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) January 11, 2019
Two days after it happened Jokic was still being asked about his one-handed fullcourt outlet pass to Jamal Murray against the Clippers. He has watched the replay, but he’s still not quite sure how the play happened so seamlessly.
“Is it some connection? I just knew he’s gonna be. … I don’t know how,” Jokic said. “I cannot explain it. In my mind, he was there. When I look it up, he was there, so I just threw the ball.”
Jokic has become the offensive fulcrum of the Nuggets, a point-center equally content banging in the paint or leading a transition run out. Nuggets coach Michael Malone has an interesting challenge in trying to hone Jokic’s passing skills while still giving him the liberty to improvise. Jokic isn’t so refined that he doesn’t occasionally “hit the popcorn lady a few times,” as Malone said, but his greatest gift might be in his ability to anticipate.
“With all great players, you have to give him that leeway and give him that freedom,” Malone said. “If I try to bottle that up, I’d be doing him a disservice.”
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