San Antonio Spurs: Gregg Popovich has highest praise for Nikola Jokic
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t hand out compliments lightly
In today’s NBA there are basically three molds that an elite center can take. They can be a traditional, dominant rim runner and rebounders like Andre Drummond, a more versatile, two-way force like Joel Embiid, or an offensive savant in the mold of Nikola Jokic. After their recent defeat at the hands of Jokic’s Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had nothing but good words for the Nuggets do it all big man.
Jokic’s dominance is nothing new, he’s been giving teams the business since he came into the league but over the past three seasons, he’s taken his game to the next level. He finished fourth in MVP voting last year and is sure to be high on the ballot this year as well.
Coming into Orlando, we saw a slimmed-down version of Jokic. He’s always carried around a few extra pounds but that’s never held him back. If anything, the added weight might have helped him push people around in the low post. But this lighter version is proving to be just as destructive.
San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich compares Nikola Jokic to Larry Bird
Heading into yesterday’s game with the Denver Nuggets, the San Antonio Spurs surely knew that limiting Jokic’s impact on the game was going to be a game-changing key point. Unfortunately, for as much attention as the Spurs paid to the Nuggets center, he was still able to have his way with them, putting up an impressive 25 points and 11 assists.
Gregg Popovich doesn’t hand out compliments lightly so when he compared Jokic to one of the best players of all time in his postgame comments it was an indication of how much respect he has for Jokic’s game.
“He’s like a reincarnation of Larry Bird. He does everything, he’s amazing.”
Comparing the numbers Jokic put up this year to Bird’s career numbers and you’ll see that the comparison is spot on.
- Larry Bird: 24.3 pts, 10 rebs, 6.3 assists
- Nikola Jokic: 20.4 pts, 10.1 rebs, 7.0 assists
Larry Bird was one of the most lethal 3-point shooters of his time and still has the edge over Jokic in that regard. Jokic topped out as a near 40 percent 3-point shooter in his third year in the league but has since come back to earth.
In any case, Jokic is certainly deserving of the comparison to an all-time great. He’s one of the most unique and entertaining players in the league and is going to be a thorn in the Spurs side for years to come. Until San Antonio finds a way to defend him they’re going to have an awfully hard time of making it back to the Finals.