Nikola Jokic, now a five-time All-Star, deflects latest honor


PHILADELPHIA – Nikola Jokic was as excited about his fifth consecutive All-Star bid as most people are about going to the grocery store.

“I was (at) the racetrack, so I didn’t even pay attention, to be honest,” Jokic said following practice Friday. Amid Denver’s three-game road trip, the Nuggets had a rare off-day where they practiced in a remote gym at Temple University.

“It was good,” he said. “It was nice.”

That was Jokic’s attempt to downplay the accomplishment, which will see him start his third consecutive All-Star Game at next month’s exhibition in Salt Lake City. But after a bit of prodding, Jokic conceded it was an honor to be among the game’s best players.

“Let’s say special company,” Jokic said, perhaps believing it or perhaps spouting the company line.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone has said, repeatedly, he doesn’t take Jokic for granted and doesn’t want him to become numb to his accomplishments. He sent Jokic a text Thursday night reinforcing that idea.

“I hope you understand how important this is, and the fact that fans, all over the world, recognize your greatness,” Malone told him.

But it wasn’t just fans. Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo earned 220 votes each from their fellow players — the most of any players in the NBA.

Malone said he’d never lean into his accomplishment or boast about his awards since it would focus the spotlight on him and not the team.

“I never coached Tim Duncan but I see so many similarities,” Malone said.

Jokic’s ethos is that of someone who wants no attention but has learned that it comes with the territory. Ahead of Saturday’s national TV showcase against Joel Embiid, Jokic was peppered with questions about Philadelphia’s center. He had nothing but glowing things to say about him, even sharing he felt he “deserves” to be an All-Star starter.

“People try to create the bad blood,” Jokic said. “There isn’t any. I respect the guy. The guy’s the most dominant player right now, probably, in the league.”

It’s the same train of thought Jokic always has when it comes to opponents, big games, MVP races, and attention. He’s almost metronomic in his responses.

Asked on Friday how he felt about the possibility of becoming a three-time MVP, Jokic deflected at every chance he got. He said when he initially came to the NBA, his only goal was to stay as long as possible, not to accrue awards or attention.

“I never came to the league to be MVP,” he said.

Friday’s round of questions pertained to the upcoming All-Star Game. At this rate, Jokic can deflect any MVP inquiries for a few more months.


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