In an interview with Malika Andrews of ESPN (video link), Finals MVP Nikola Jokic talks about the benefits of spending his career with one head coach and the stability of being alongside Jamal Murray for so long. The Nuggets drafted Jokic in 2014, and he joined the team a year later. They hired Michael Malone as their coach in 2015 and drafted Murray in 2016.
“I really trust those guys,” Jokic said. “I think that’s how the winning is done. Jamal was injured. He thought he was going to get traded. He was playing bad. This and that, media talking about him. … He proved to himself that he can lead a championship team.”
Jokic added that he’s looking forward to returning to Serbia to celebrate with his close friends and family after Thursday’s victory parade. He also endorsed Malone’s declaration that Denver can win more titles with its current core and said there’s room for him to improve after reaching the top of the league.
“I think I can be much better, but you still need to sacrifice yourself,” Jokic said. “Basketball is not the main thing in my life. It’s something that I’m good at.”
There’s more from Denver:
- Jokic is the historical heir to Tim Duncan as an unassuming superstar capable of leading his team to multiple championships, observes David Aldridge of The Athletic. Both are highly skilled in the fundamentals of the game, Aldridge notes, and they can envision plays before they happen.
- Amid the championship celebration Monday night, general manager Calvin Booth was already thinking about how to sustain the Nuggets’ success, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Denver is over the salary cap for next season, so Booth’s options will be limited, but he’s reportedly trying to use one of the team’s 2024 first-rounders to trade up in this year’s draft. “We gotta give ourselves a chance to be in the Finals every year,” he said. “If we’re in the Finals, we have a chance. I don’t expect us to win it every time, but we gotta try to get here.”
- Being a champion is especially sweet for four veteran players who have spent years bouncing around the league while hoping to win a ring, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Reggie Jackson embraced Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan and Ish Smith as the final seconds ticked off the clock in Game 5. “It hit me at the end of the game,” Smith said. “I don’t know why I just got emotional, but this is gratifying, man. This is great. I’m so happy for the city. Denver, our teammates, man, we all got a story. So it’s been a blessing.”