Denver Nuggets star, and last year’s NBA MVP, Nikola Jokic, has been hit with a one-game suspension following his on-court fracas with Miami Heat’s Markieff Morris. The pair tangled during the Nuggets’ 113-96 this week at the Ball Arena.
Morris initiated the altercation with a flagrant foul, but that can’t excuse Jokic’s violent reaction, which sent his opponent flailing to the floor in obvious pain. Both players were, unsurprisingly, immediately ejected. Additionally, Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler was fined $30k for trying to escalate the situation.
Jokic posted 25 points before he was thrown out of the game, and his form this season is close to being on a par with his outstanding displays last term. The Serbian is averaging 25.4 points per game and is a big part of the Nuggets’ push to make it to the postseason for the fourth season on the bounce. The current NBA odds show that Denver’s stock is solid, with the Nuggets currently around (+2300) to clinch the title, which is a reasonable price for a team as consistent as Michael Malone’s.
The Nuggets are currently 6-4 and two games back from Northwest Division leaders, the Utah Jazz, and they’ll need Jokic and his fellow teammates to build up their form in the coming weeks.
On the incident, Jokic has been fairly honest and candid, stating:
“It’s a stupid play; I feel bad. I’m not supposed to react that way, but it’s in the middle of the game, I get hit … I just needed to protect myself,”
Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra correctly pointed out that the incident could have proven more painful for Morris;
“This whole thing could have been a whole lot uglier if Markieff was actually facing Jokic. The fact that he had his back turned, and he made a play like that, blindsiding him, that’s just a very dangerous play,” Spoelstra added.
Malone, meanwhile, choose to look at the matter from an entirely different angle, keen to avoid the ire of Jokic;
“I think the referees did a good job of breaking it up and trying to restore order. It’s somewhat of an ugly end to a great game from us, but we’re not going to allow that to take away from the win.”
The clash led to a flurry of comments from pundits and former legends and led to support for Jokic’s reaction.
15-time NBA All-Star, and four-time NBA champion, Shaquille O’Neal had sympathy for Jokic’s actions, commenting:
“As a big guy, when a little guy hits you, you gotta touch him on back,” Shaq chimed in. “I have no problem with what The Joker did; I actually like it as a big guy. You got these guys foulin’ them, hanging on. He hit him, intentional, unnecessary roughness, so what do you do as a big guy? You go hit him back. When you hit me, don’t turn your head because it’s coming. You’re either going to get it in the front, or you’re going to get it in the back.”
Seemingly those of lesser, physical, stature such as Charles Barkley, was also in Jokic’s corner.
“Morris started it, let’s get [that] first, Joker retaliated, and then people say, ‘Well, he hit him in the back.’ Well, if you hit me, I’m with Shaq on this. if you hit me, you better not turn your damn back because I’m coming back at you. You can’t hit somebody and turn your back.”