Sports

Jokic wins second consecutive NBA MVP award

DENVER – Denver’s Nikola Jokic has won his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award after ending a season with numbers never seen before in NBA history, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.

According to the person who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity Monday, the NBA was preparing to make the announcement in the coming days, likely later this week, because the voting results weren’t released.

ESPN initially reported, citing sources, that Jokic would be reappointed as MVP.

The Nuggets’ 7-foot center became the first player in league history to surpass 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season. And that kind of dominance from the player nicknamed “Joker” helped convince voters he should be the 13th player of the NBA’s exclusive MVP back-to-back club.

The other finalists — finishing second and third in any order — were Philadelphia center Joel Embiid, who led the league in points averages, and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo from reigning champions Milwaukee Bucks.

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Jokic, 27, averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists in a team missing two top players in Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (back). Carrying the load in and out at night, the big man from Sombor, Serbia, answered the call and led the Nuggets to a 48-win season. They earned sixth place in the West before losing to the Golden State Warriors in five games in the opening round of the playoffs.

“It’s just remarkable what he’s done,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone recently about Jokic. “I know I’m very biased, I’ll admit it with all my heart – the MVP isn’t even a competition. There are other great players, I’m not saying they aren’t great players, but what Nikola Jokic has done with this team this year, with everything we’ve been through, is incredible. He was good last year and this year he is even better.”

The accolade is likely the start of a big off-season for Jokic, who is eligible for a supermax extension that could guarantee him nearly $254 million over five seasons starting in 2023-24. He will earn $32.4 million next season.

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“There’s nothing more important” than keeping Jokic, Nugget’s President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly said recently.

Jokic joins the rare company to win a second straight season. Other players to have won twice in a row include Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, LeBron James (twice), Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Moses Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (twice). Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell have each won the award for three consecutive seasons.

Jokic also has his chance for a threesome next year.

Jokic, known for his spot-on passing as well as his soft touch, finished the game with 19 triple-doubles as the league leader. The 41st player in the 2014 draft now has 76 in his career, trailing only Chamberlain (78) among centers.

After being eliminated from the playoffs – averaging 31 points and 13.2 rebounds – Jokic was asked how he could celebrate if he became MVP.

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“Probably with some music, beer, friends around, family,” he said. “As you’re probably supposed to do.

“But if I don’t get it, I won’t die. I’ll just keep playing, keep trying to play right like I’ve done my whole life.”

There was a time when the Jokic was vilified for his game. More specifically, his defense and unable to jump. His once-chubby figure – Spurs coach Gregg Popovich good-naturedly ripped him off – has more vigor.

Has it ever bothered him that his game doesn’t seem to garner as much respect as other standout players?

“I don’t care, brother,” said Jokic.

He sees the court with the clarity of a point guard and has an arsenal of shots that includes smooth baby hooks around the perimeter and a soft 3-point touch.

When asked whether it was more important to take away Jokic’s shot attempts or passes, Popovich had the right answer ready: “I don’t think anyone figured that out,” he said. “He is amazing.”

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No objection from New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.

“If someone jogs, they will make you pay for it. If you’re out of position or you miss a cut, he’ll make you pay for it,” Thibodeau previously said. “Great player.”

Jokic cares immensely about winning – games, not hardware. He’s not one to lobby on his own behalf, just let his numbers do the talking. When he won last season, he averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 boards and 8.3 assists. This season, he took his game to a new level by fielding his fourth consecutive All-Star team.

“If that’s enough, that’s enough,” he said. “If not, you can’t control that.”

Funny story about his MVP trophy from a season ago: He wasn’t quite sure where it was when his family moved.

“It’s here in Denver,” cracked Jokic recently.

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AP basketball writer Tim Reynolds, AP sports writer Arnie Stapleton, and freelance writer Michael Kelly contributed to this report.

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Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/sports/2022/05/09/ap-source-jokic-captures-2nd-straight-nba-mvp-award/ Jokic wins second consecutive NBA MVP award

Nate Jones

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