The Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich was full of praise for Nikola Jokić after the Nuggets had beaten the Spurs 132-126. After another of Jokić's incredible all-around displays, Pop had this to say about Serbia's big man.
Joker finished the game with 25 points, 4 rebounds, and 11 assists. He shot 10-for-17 from the field, converting 3 of 5 three-point attempts. Now tell me, aren't those guard stats? How typical is for a seven-footer to have almost three times more assists than rebounds? The magic of Nikola Jokić is that he made it seem usual a guy his size posts stats like that.
The 'chubby' guy has the Nuggets sitting third in the West, only a half-game behind the two-seeded Clippers. The way he's playing the game is impressive. He's Denver's primary playmaker and is without the doubt the best passing big man in the NBA. Maybe ever. Jokić can extend his game beyond the three-point line and punish you down low when you put a smaller guy on him. Joker is a matchup nightmare, and the way he's doing it is jaw-dropping. And coach Popovich also sees it. After comparing him to Larry Bird, Pop continued his praise for Denver's star.
He’s stepping out making threes. He’s rebounding the ball. This should be an NBA rule: You can’t tap it to yourself. He’s down there, and he jumps a quarter of an inch, and then he taps it two or three times, then he gets it in, he lays it back in. It’s not just luck. He does it all the time. He’s great on the board. He’s obviously maybe the best big man passer in the league, if not close to it. He’s a pretty special player.
Gregg Popovich, KENS 5
Hear me out; I don't think Joker is nearly at the level of Larry Bird. So don't get caught up in their all-time ranking discussion. At this point of Joker's career, that would be absurd, and I don't think that's where Popovich is coming from. It's more a comparison of their style of play, and I would have to agree with Pop on that one. I see the similarities, mostly passing and rebounding wise. Check out their numbers; they also speak to it.
It's also their feel for the game, something you can't teach. The two both have that non-athletic flashiness to them, which let's face it is incredibly entertaining to watch. Like you don't expect them to do what they are and were doing on the floor. It adds to the wow factor when watching them play. Bird also had the trash-talking to add to it, but I don't see Jokić ever becoming that guy. He's not about that life.
But he is about playing the game of basketball at the highest level, just as Larry did. And he is doing it similarly to Larry. Not a lot of jumping and athletic plays, but a whole lot of high IQ basketball plays. And maybe it's just me, but that's my favorite way to do it.