Though team Giannis fell to team LeBron, the NBA’s annual spectacle was once again a resounding success and the Denver Nuggets center looked to have a great time.
Nikola Jokic grabbed 13 minutes, second-most among reserves in the game. The Denver Nuggets phenom scored six points on 3-for-4 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds.
A couple of things that struck me; Nikola looks to be popular among his peers, his playful attitude is genuine and infectious. Video of Jokic and the Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry in pregame warmups showed Denver’s Joker guarding Steph and diving between his legs, sliding on the floor. It was funny and it’s part of what makes Nikola such an incredible teammate and player.
The other thing was from the team photos. We all know that the Philadelphia 76’ers Joel Embiid is a mountain of a man. At 7′ 250lb., Embiid is an imposing physical presence. Scroll up to the picture associated with this piece and look at how much bigger Jokic (on the left) looks than Embiid (center). It’s incredible that the self-described “fat, little point guard” has such touch and skill at his size.
It’s also incredible that Jokic performs as well as he does in the Skills Challenge. In his second appearance at the event, Jokic won his first-round matchup with the Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic before bowing to eventual champion Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics. Jokic had a sizeable lead after the layup but Tatum nailed his first three-point attempt to eliminate the Joker.
It was a good weekend for the Nuggets, Sue Bird coached in the Celebrity Game with Monte Morris and Michael Malone’s staff helmed team LeBron to the 178-164 loss. Word from team LeBron’s locker room was that the players asked Malone if they could go watch the J. Cole halftime show and the coach responded in classic fashion, agreeing to let the players go if they’d get their back in transistion in the second-half.
It was fun and it was a spectacle, as always. It was nice to see the Nuggets so well represented and so well-regarded in Charlotte. Denver should be a staple of All-Star weekend for years to come considering the talent of the young core and hey, maybe Isaiah Thomas sees enough in Denver to sign on past this season. Thomas’ talent is All-Star worthy.
For now, though, it is back-to-business, the Nuggets have a brutal schedule ahead but they are fully healthy (minus Michael Porter Jr.) for the first time all season. The buzz around Thomas’ return should give the team some energy and allow Jamal Murray to work his way back into Blue Arrow territory. It will be a grind until the playoffs but Denver is in great shape for the run.