Hey, we all know the NBA is LeBron James’ league. He rules everything. Not content to be the best player, King James is also the most influential grid builder in the game. But that doesn’t stop the feisty little Nuggets from giving James a noogie while trying to beat off the king’s crown.
“To be fair,” center Nikola Jokic said Thursday, “I don’t care about the Lakers.”
While there were barely 65 days between the Lakers’ elimination of the Denver playoffs in the Western Conference Finals and the start of training camp in this insane COVID-19 time, I missed the Joker. Not you?
When I tried to ask Jokic where the Nuggets were now in their competitive relationship with the mighty champion Lakers, he had none of that. And that’s part of what makes Joker so endearing. Yep, Denver’s all-star center understands he’s not James. But that doesn’t mean he should kiss the king’s ring.
The hottest reason to smile on this chilly December day? The newlywed Jokic, radiating pride and delight, rushed to show his wedding ring to journalists on a Zoom call. This guy is a sweetheart. We’re lucky he’s in Denver for reasons beyond all those triple doubles.
But do you know what’s funny? Many people in the NBA still struggle to take Joker and his team seriously, despite a magical playoff run in the Disney bubble that saw Denver erase 3-1 series shortages on the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.
As the Clippers report to training camp, it appears the same players who fired Coach Doc Rivers are still struggling to accept their defeat to Denver.
“I think it hurts people to be 3-1 ahead,” said Clippers forward Marcus Morris. It’s not about losing, it’s about how we lost. And I think that’s the biggest motivation for this team, because at the end of the day, that team was no better than us. We all knew that. “
The Nuggets don’t get any respect. So what else is new?
“Even now they talk about how Clippers lost, they don’t think about how Nuggets won,” said Jokic, who expressed his opinion without knowing Morris’s low opinion of Denver. ‘We don’t care that no one gives us anything, respect. We’ll be there. Last year we found ourselves in difficult situations. We fight. “
Before their championship banner could be lifted, the Lakers went out and got better, adding talented veterans Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol to the band at La La Land. It seems the cunning old king is building a final dynasty.
And the Nuggets? They were disrespected by free agent Jerami Grant, who dumped a champion in Denver for cash and a bigger role in Detroit Rock City.
“It was certainly a bit surprising and disappointing,” said Tim Connelly, Nuggets president of basketball operations.
When the predictions start rolling in, we know Denver will not have a preference for returning to the Western Conference Finals. However, don’t expect the Nuggets to curtsy in the presence of James, the Clippers, or anyone else blocking their path to a championship.
“Just because someone disrespects us doesn’t mean we take their point of view,” Jokic said. “We know what we can do.”
Joker is the underdog in all of us.
In the world where he works, the odds may have piled against him. But Joker doesn’t care.
“Are we going to get better? Are we going to get worse?” Said Jokic, grateful to be healthy and hopeful as the coronavirus pandemic continues. “I’m just looking forward to seeing how we’re going to do this season in all these weird times.”