Nikola Jokic’s Shoddy Work Ethic And Horse-Gazing Tendencies Have Clearly Cost Him A Shot At Greatness
9:25 AM EDT on November 2, 2023
In order to become an apex hooper in the NBA, it is necessary to forsake the path of the common baller, a life of creature comforts and indulgences that soften the mind and tip the body fat percentage. Things like showing up early to the team practice facility to max out in the weight room or sharpen the release on your jumper are half-measures. It is not enough to give your teammates a copy of your "Angle Grinder And Other Power Tool Sounds To Exercise By" mixtape. Mysterious clinics that promise blood-juvenation must be summoned. History tells us that NBA titles are won and lost by the work in the offseason, the days when everything and nothing is on the line. This is certainly the reason why Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets have lost their edge, as was made clear in their 110-89 loss to the dominant Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night.
The Timberwolves got off to a 9-0 run to start the game and never fell behind, leading by as much as 22 before the half. Anthony Edwards scored 24 points off attacking whatever vacuum he could find in Denver's defense, pulling up for 20-footers and crashing the hoop like an athlete who spent his summer sharpening steel against steel. Karl-Anthony Towns eschewed his typical three-point dreams for jumpers and layups. Mike Conley was dishing to his castmates and popping threes off screens.
Typically this would be the part of the blog where fortunes shift in the third quarter, as the Nuggets core shakes off the dust and regains sanity. That would not be the case when Denver barely shot 40 percent on the night. The only Nuggets starter besides Jokic to score in double digits was Jamal Murray, and he went 0-9 to start, only to break through with 12 points in the third quarter. Just shy of the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter, Mike Malone sent in Denver's reserves to ride out the end of the game.
It was only months ago the Nuggets collapsed the Wolves in the first round of the playoffs on their way to winning a first NBA title, a run that was powered by Jokic's methodical performance. This was a player who became the first person in NBA history to reach 600 points, 250 rebounds and 150 assists in the playoffs. He broke the record for most triple-doubles in the postseason. On Wednesday night, Jokic could barely manage a measly 25 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 47 percent. There were none of the long-range shots that make him a threat outside the paint. And what of his patented physicality, the punishing, meaty backdown game in the post? OK, yes it was there. But the same duo Jokic washed in the spring, Towns and Rudy Gobert, now supported by a healthy Naz Reid off the bench, forced Jokic off the front of the rim. Sauce? He has lost it.
How did this happen? We are left to make the sad assessment that Jokic has lost sight of what matters. He yearned to go home like a child lost in the fragrance aisle at a Nordstrom. Does this sound like the heart of a winner? Instead of using those scant 107 days between the end of the NBA Finals and start of training camp to hone his body and mind into a vicious instrument, he went all goofy-foot on a rafting trip and got shirtless for some fan karaoke. Instead of dragging his comrades into unauthorized workouts in bleak gymnasiums away from the NBA's radar, he instead invited them over to lovingly stare his precious horses. This is shameful.
Perhaps it would be better if he remained with his herd back on the farm, running free in the pristine splendor of Sombor, where large lumbering animals are left alone without a care. This sport is for predators who sharpen their fangs in the long night of discontent, whose hunger is so raw and unhinged that it consumes its prey in disquieting retches as it slowly gulps its food down a terrifying maw.
The NBA is no place for a horse!