Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic doesn’t generally enjoy his media obligations, but he’s almost always friendly, funny and affable.
It’s not uncommon for Jokic to laugh at himself or slip a dry joke into his typically mundane interviews.
But Friday was a different story. Jokic fielded seven questions in under a minute, shedding little light on his recent struggles and offering a simple “no comment” when asked specifically about the $25,000 fine he incurred for using a slur in a postgame press conference in Chicago on Oct. 31.
Two days earlier, Jokic walked out of the visiting locker room in Memphis after telling reporters that any interview would yield a “no comment” following the Nuggets’ 89-87 loss to the Grizzlies. Jokic, who is averaging a career-high 7.6 assists, took just one shot that game – a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer. He took just three shots in Denver’s win over Boston on Monday, the same night Jamal Murray scored a career-high 48 points.
On Friday, Jokic was brief. His answer for getting the Nuggets’ offense back in sync after the Grizzlies’ physical defense affected them?
“Just score more,” he said.
And for him individually?
The only real insight he offered was that Gary Harris had talked with him “a little bit.”
His most elaborate answer came when asked if he was excited to see former teammate Kenneth Faried with the Nuggets hosting the Brooklyn Nets.
“Yeah, I think it’s going to be fun,” he said.
Jokic has had difficult stretches before; he had three consecutive games of single-digit scoring last season before breaking out for 36 against Cleveland. This wasn’t him dodging questions about his play.
Jokic, a 23-year-old star speaking in a second language, was guarded as a result of the NBA’s fine and paranoid he would say the wrong thing. Still, he has yet to publicly offer an apology. Perhaps a big game will give him something else to talk about, but Jokic, who’s has had no missteps to this point, had no interest in discussing his strange play or his offensive remark.
As for his play on the court, multiple teammates said he needed to be more aggressive. Veteran Paul Millsap said Jokic was too talented to not snap out of his funk.
“Whatever he feels, I’m behind him,” Millsap said. “If he feels like his shot’s not on or if he feels like he’s not getting good shots, (then) he’s not getting good shots or his shot’s not on. I think you just go off the play or the feel of that guy, especially with a guy like Jokic, who knows the game so well. I respect whatever decision he makes.”
Millsap was recently mired in a slump of his own where he admitted his rhythm was off. He suggested the same for Jokic.
“He’ll pull out of it,” Millsap said. “It’s basketball. Basketball is a rhythm game. Sometimes you just don’t have a good rhythm, it (doesn’t) feel right. He’ll get it back. He’s a super talented guy. I’m not concerned about it.”
Nuggets small forward Will Barton, who offered no updated timeline for his return following surgery to repair hip and core muscles on Oct. 23, had even better perspective on the Jokic situation.
“He’s not in a slump,” Barton said. “He’s just not shooting the ball. I talk with him all the time, with Nikola right, and I think we’ve been doing this the last two years when he had these stretches where he doesn’t shoot, and I just tried to tell him, it’s not about his shot attempts. It’s about him being a threat, looking at the rim, looking like he’s being aggressive. … When he looks at the rim you have to respect so much that he does, and I feel like the last couple games he hasn’t been doing that.”
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