If game recognizes game, legend recognizes legend. When it comes to the question of the greatest player in Denver Nuggets history, Dan Issel doesn’t hesitate. He’s already passed the crown to Nikola Jokic.
“You know, you have to,” Issel, the Nuggets icon and basketball Hall-of-Famer, said by phone Monday night. “First of all, none of (the rest of) us were ever the MVP of the league. So I think that puts a leg up for him on all of us.”
Heck of an endorsement.
Heck of a club, too. Alex English. Fat Lever. David Thompson. Issel. Bobby Jones. Dikembe Mutombo. Melo. Paragons and giants, the lot.
But this is a different plane of transcendence, isn’t it? Seventy-five career triple-doubles, 18 of them this season alone. An artist — Jokic just turned 27 — entering their peak.
As pointed out by The Athletic’s John Hollinger, Jokic went into Monday’s game with Golden State on a pace to record the highest single-season PER (Player Efficiency Rating) in NBA history — NBA history — at 32.3. (With another flyover town great, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, right behind him at 32.0.)
The Joker is the closer’s closer. If the Nuggets are trailing, Jokic finishes games like a young John Elway, where no opponent’s lead is safe and hope is never off the table. If the Nuggets are up, he becomes Terrell Davis, sure hands and smarts, eating away at the clock, sealing victory at the charity stripe.
After Jokic put up 30 points combined in the fourth quarter and overtime to rally the Nuggets to a 138-130 home win over New Orleans on Sunday, former Denver coach George Karl went to Twitter and proclaimed:
There have been some Nuggets greats — Bobby Jones, David Thompson, Alex English, Mutombo, Melo. Jokic is the best.
At this point, it’s getting harder and harder to argue.
“I mean, Nikola, he could be a top-10 player ever,” Karl said Monday, doubling down. “What’s surprised me is (how) the game is easier for him. And that’s so hard for me to believe because the game, to be good, takes work. It just seems that this year is easier than last year.”
Like Issel, Karl’s played with — or coached — the cream of the NBA’s last five decades. When you ask for a Jokic comp, the latter frames the Joker as a combo of two titans, a happy hoops marriage of Tim Duncan and Larry Bird “in how he plays the game, without a lot of flair. Kind of boring, in some ways.”
“It’s bigger news,” Issel added, “when he doesn’t get a triple-double than when he does.”
We’re watching greatness, here. Or trying to.
The Nuggets are on a pace to net the lowest in-market television ratings for an NBA franchise in 15 years. Jokic can fire no-look passes 40 feet behind his head, but Stan Kroenke can’t throw Front Range faithful a bone?
“I don’t know who thinks they’re winning this contest,” Karl said of the ongoing argy-bargy between Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and Comcast. “But it sure feels like everybody’s losing, in my mind.”
And, more to the point, losing out on another winter of watching the Joker’s prime.
“If he were to have my vote,” Issel continued, “he’d get (the MVP) again this year.”
Brother, if the MVP argument this season is based on where the Nuggets would be without him, there’d be no contest.
Keeler: NCAA Tournament secured, beating Boise State Broncos was perfect finale for CSU Rams seniors Kendle Moore, Adam Thistlewood
Keeler: MLB lockout proves Dick Monfort and Rob Manfred have two things in common. They don’t care about baseball. Or Rockies fans.
Keeler: From DeMarcus Cousins to COVID, this Nuggets season feels like coach Michael Malone’s best work in Denver
Keeler: Do Dick Monfort, Rob Manfred think Rockies fans are idiots? The longer MLB lockout goes, the dumber it looks.
The Post’s Mark Kiszla named top 10 national columnist by Associated Press Sports Editors
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Denver came out of Sunday sporting a net plus-16.3 points per 100 possessions when the Joker is on the court compared to when he’s not, up almost 10 points better than his rate from a year ago (plus-6.4).
“I don’t know what more there is that says (he’s) the MVP,” Issel noted. “I don’t even know what (net points per 100 possessions) means. But it sounds impressive.”
It’s more than impressive. It’s historic. Jokic is crushing it in so many advanced metrics it’s easy to let yourself drown in a sea of statistics.
But to keep things simple, a good one to sum up where he’s at can also be found via Basketball Reference, thanks to something called VORP, or Value Over Replacement Player. It’s a figure similar in tenor to how WAR — Wins Above Replacement — is used by baseball wonks.
As of Monday afternoon, the Joker led all NBA players with a VORP of 7.6. To give some context as just how good that is, consider who immediately follows him on the list: Antetokounmpo (5.6), Joel Embiid (4.9), LeBron James (4.2), Stephen Curry (4.1) and Luka Doncic (4.1). Star after star.
“I think you could make a very easy argument that he’s the best player to wear a Nuggets uniform,” Issel continued. “I know one thing: I don’t know if he’ll be the next jersey to go up in the rafters (at Ball Arena). But he’ll certainly be one of them, that’s for sure.”
This kind of virtuosity, this brand of genius and splendor, doesn’t come around every day. If only more of us could see it, in real time, before the sun finally sets.
Article Source and Credit denverpost.com https://www.denverpost.com/2022/03/08/nikola-jokic-stan-kroenke-denver-nuggets-altitude-comcast-nba/ Buy Tickets for every event – Sports, Concerts, Festivals and more buytickets.com