Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic to win second consecutive MVP, league source confirms
The 2021-22 season hadn’t even formally started when Nikola Jokic set the tone for how he planned to handle the unwanted MVP inquiries lobbed in his direction.
Leaning up against a wall in the bowels of Ball Arena ahead of Denver’s season opener at Phoenix, Jokic said he “couldn’t care less,” about his status as the reigning MVP. Indifferent to the award, Jokic, nonetheless, returned this season an even more dominant version of himself, plowing through opponents and picking apart defenses like Peyton Manning, the Hall of Fame quarterback who likes to frequent Nuggets games.
Jokic will be named league MVP for the second consecutive season, a league source confirmed Monday, becoming only the fifth center to win in back-to-back years and only the 13th player in NBA history to earn the award in consecutive seasons.
Jokic learned he’d won the award on Monday, the source said, and a formal announcement is expected later this week.
ESPN first reported the news Monday morning.
RELATED: Between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, who’s the best center in the NBA? Nine big men weigh in.
The award cements Jokic’s name among the pantheon of NBA legends. He joins Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, LeBron James, Steph Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only back-to-back winners. He’s the only second-round pick of the hallowed group.
Jokic’s MVP case over Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (a two-time winner) and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid stemmed from the help he had around him. Jokic dragged the Nuggets to a 48-win regular season — three wins shy of both the Bucks and the Sixers — while missing his sidekick, Jamal Murray, for the entire season and Denver’s best perimeter threat, Michael Porter Jr., for all but nine games. The loss of P.J. Dozier to an ACL tear in late November was an underrated injury that left the Nuggets without another key rotation player and dropped even more defensive burden on Jokic’s shoulders.
It didn’t matter. Jokic was the epitome of valuable, a bedrock piece whose reliable availability guaranteed the Nuggets a competitive season.
Jokic, improbably, raised his game with career-highs of 27.1 points on over 58% shooting from the field and 13.8 rebounds, three more rebounds than he’d ever averaged before. The efficiency was even more astounding given that Jokic saw more double-teams and kitchen-sink defenses than ever before. His 7.9 assists ranked eighth overall in the league. His 66 double-doubles were 13 more than the next-best player, and his 19 triple-doubles were six more than the No. 2 finisher.
In 39 of his 74 games this season, Jokic led the Nuggets in points, rebounds and assists.
Without Murray and Porter, Jokic still conducted the NBA’s sixth-ranked offense with Monte Morris assuming starting point guard duties and 35-year-old Jeff Green manning the power forward spot.
Denver’s No. 2 scorer, Aaron Gordon, was vaulted up the depth chart and asked to play second fiddle to Jokic. At just 15 points per game, Gordon was the lowest No. 2 scorer for any team in the NBA.
Never one to complain, Jokic barely shrugged at Denver’s circumstances. Instead, he empowered his teammates, routinely breathing confidence in them with his unselfish passing and postgame remarks.
At the All-Star Game in Cleveland, Jokic found a shrewd way to handle the mounting attention as his second MVP campaign grew. He was happy, he told numerous reporters, as long as the award went to a big man. It was his way of promoting all three candidates, without singling himself out.
“I’m just trying to be humble, to stay on the ground,” Jokic said after a home win over the Grizzlies in April. “… I don’t think about that to be honest, am I one of the best? I’m just trying to win the game.”
While Nuggets coach Michael Malone and every one of his teammates stumped for his MVP candidacy, Jokic never once campaigned for it.
“If it happens, yeah, great,” he said in mid-April.
In that same interview, he disclosed that, while he and his wife were in the middle of moving, he didn’t actually know where last year’s trophy was. Though a reasonable explanation, it was indicative of Jokic’s general attitude toward the trophy.
As stated on dozens of occasions, the only thing Jokic is chasing is an NBA championship. For now, he’ll have to settle for making history.
Source: Read Full Article