“I don’t think about it anymore”
Sorry debaters and hot-takers. Nikola Jokic has better things to worry about than the MVP race.
Personally, he has a young family that he misses every time the Nuggets hit the road. Professionally, he has an NBA championship to win. The two lawsuits have shaken his interest, twice, in discussing or even considering the MVP race.
“I don’t think about it anymore,” he said earlier this week as the team wrapped up a 10-day road trip to Washington. “It’s from the past.”
At some point during his first two MVP runs, it got into his mindset. But now, when the conversation has moved on and he and the Nuggets are onto bigger and better things, Jokic doesn’t have time for that. (Don’t make the mistake of assuming the price doesn’t matter to him; just accept that, to him, the conversation isn’t worth having and he has nothing to add.)
Some of the NBA’s MVP voters could be swayed this coming week, when Denver hosts Milwaukee and Giannis Antetokounmpo on Saturday or Philadelphia and Joel Embiid on Monday. When Embiid scored 47 points in their opener, it was an impossible touchstone to ignore.
And yet, with just nine games left in the regular season and the Nuggets more keen on retaining Memphis for the No. 1 seed, chances are Jokic will try to dodge the conversation entirely. And if he doesn’t, expect him to be hugely complimentary to both players. It always has been.
That’s the part that goes to Nuggets coach Michael Malone. Although Jokic hasn’t explicitly told him he’s tired of the conversation, Malone has his guesses.
“I can only imagine it’s hard not to be put off by this,” he said.
Asked about the MVP run on Wednesday after Denver’s victory over the Wizards, Malone alluded to a toxic and unhealthy tenor who consumed the debate.
“This year, compared to the last two years, I think this year, unfortunately, the MVP conversation has taken a really ugly and unpleasant turn,” he said. “I think that really put a lot of people off, including him.
“What’s happening now is there are so many guys who could win MVP this year,” he said. “Great candidates. Joel Embiid is an excellent candidate. Luka Doncic is an excellent candidate. Jayson Tatum, whoever you wanted to put in this mix. These are all deserving. But what’s happening in today’s society is like when I was a college coach, all the negative recruiting. It’s not promoting my guy. He tears up all the other guys. And that’s just ridiculous.
Of course, Malone will oppose his superstar if need be, but there will be no public nitpicking about Antetokounmpo’s 3-point shot or Embiid’s availability. Whether he intended to or not, Malone followed Jokic’s lead.
“Celebrate them, don’t criticize them, don’t put them down,” he said. “Build them all. And whoever wins it, good for him.
Home cooking: Going into Saturday’s home game against Milwaukee, Denver broke an NBA-best 30-6 record at the Ball Arena. Saturday is expected to be the 27th sold-out of the season so far. And according to the Nuggets, they are down to just 185 full-season ticket packages left for next season.
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