Northwest Notes: Jokic, Collins, Milton, Division Preview

After winning the 2023 NBA Championship, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic made headlines throughout the summer by expressing his desire to go back home and then later partying in his hometown of Sombor, Serbia. ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk took a look back at “the summer of Jokic” and explored the center’s approach to the offseason.

Nuggets team president and governor Josh Kroenke didn’t text Jokic like normal this summer, Youngmisuk writes, instead allowing the two-time MVP to refresh.

We all kind of left him alone,” Kroenke said. “For him to get away from basketball, be with his family and reconnect with who he is fundamentally is only going to be a benefit for the Nuggets and for basketball because he comes back fresh.”

Jokic claimed he only touched a basketball “a couple of times” this summer, but did stick to a routine he’s used through the past three years, which resulted in two MVPs and a championship, Youngmisuk details. Head coach Michael Malone noted the time of seemed to benefit Jokic mentally and when teammate Aaron Gordon came to visit during the summer, he was impressed by the depth of Jokic’s routine, according to Youngmisuk.

He’s the best player in the world,” Gordon said. “He works out like a monster. … His regimen, his diet and how detail-oriented he is with his body, is second to none.

Youngmisuk notes Jokic has been more vocal in practices and team settings, displaying a new type of confidence as he and the team aim for a second straight title.

He’s only 28,” Gordon said. “So he’s going to get even smarter at manipulating the defense [and] offense. … I don’t see anybody stopping him. They still haven’t found the answer for him yet.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz traded for forward John Collins this offseason after he had a productive six seasons with Atlanta, averaging 15.8 points and 8.0 rebounds. However, both Collins and Utah’s coaching staff understand getting the 6’9″ forward acclimated in a new system might take some time, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News writes. “I have to adapt to a bunch of things that I wasn’t used to doing in Atlanta, and that’s part of the game, and I’m embracing it because it’s a new chapter for me and it also allows my game to grow,” Collins said.
  • Eight players in the Timberwolves‘ likely rotation for their first regular season game on October 25 were on the team at the end of last season, Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes. However, Wolves head coach Chris Finch said he’d like to ideally play a nine-player rotation, and Hine believes free-agent addition Shake Milton is likely to be that ninth player. Minnesota signed Milton to a two-year, $10MM deal after the guard averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists across his first five NBA seasons in Philadelphia.
  • The Northwest Division hosts the defending champion Nuggets, but also one of the few rebuilding teams in the league in the Trail Blazers. Tony Jones, Jason Quick and Josh Robbins of The Athletic preview the division which features rising stars like the Jazz‘s Walker Kessler and the TimberwolvesAnthony Edwards. The trio is bullish on the Thunder‘s Chet Holmgren, with Jones saying Oklahoma City getting him back from injury is the best offseason “addition” in the division. Meanwhile, Quick and Robbins believe Denver losing Bruce Brown and Jeff Green are the moves with the biggest potential to backfire. I recommend checking out the article in full, if you’re an Athletic subscriber, to get a solid picture for the division next season.
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