Nikola Jokic isn’t the largest talker within the NBA. Especially not publicly.
But apparently whenever you get the large man going about basketball, Jokic demonstrates his brilliance.
“We talked a lot. I’m always a guy who wants to learn a lot,” Isaiah Hartenstein mentioned. “So I think that was a special time for me to talk to them and learn. Like how he uses his eyes to pass and stuff like that. I could always pass, but the way he reads the game. When he tells you when you sit down with him what he’s seeing, it’s special. And I think that’s what makes him an MVP-type of player.”
“There were certain times [we talked] before practice,” Hartenstein added. “We would mostly be taking ice baths and talk, like, ‘What do you see?’ And how certain things work, and I think that’s how smart he is about the game. I think that’s incredible.”
Jokic and Hartenstein, two European facilities, have been teammates on the Nuggets for under half of a season. It was lengthy sufficient for Jokic to depart a large impression.
Now they’re going through off Saturday afternoon in The Joker’s annual look at MSG. He doesn’t carry the draw and cachet of most megastars, however Jokic additionally dominates the Knicks with a 13-1 profession report. This yr, he’s within the working to change into the primary participant to win three consecutive MVPs since Larry Bird. Not even Michael Jordan pulled that off.
The MVP race is tight this yr with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid as the opposite candidates.
“It’s different [guarding Jokic],” Hartenstein mentioned. “The difference between him and Embiid is his passing. I think that’s hard for teams to defend. Because you can’t trap him as much as a Joel. But the way he reads the game is always difficult. The way he gets guys involved. And I think playing with him is probably the most I learned is how to make certain reads, how to pass. And I think that’s where he helped me the most.”
Jokic is averaging 24.8 factors, 9.9 assists and 11.9 rebounds this season. He missed the opposite matchup earlier this season in opposition to the Knicks — which the Nuggets misplaced at residence — due to a COVID-19 an infection.
“This dude’s a back-to-back MVP. He’s a candidate again,” Brunson mentioned. “The Nuggets are the one-seed [in the West]. We just gotta play team basketball. We can’t just let one guy guard him. He’s just that capable of doing a lot in one night. So, it’s gonna take all of us.”
BRUNSON BACK ON THE COURT
Brunson is trending towards enjoying Saturday in opposition to the Nuggets after lacking 5 of the final six video games due to a sore foot.
The level guard went by means of Friday’s apply and will probably be labeled as questionable, however coach Tom Thibodeau implied Brunson will swimsuit up if there’s no discomfort within the morning.
“Feeling a lot better. It’s been a work in progress, but I definitely feel a lot better and progressing in the right direction,” Brunson mentioned.
Brunson characterised his harm as a “bone bruise” after unfavorable X-rays. He’s unclear the way it occurred.
“I woke up [after the Heat game two weeks ago] and just I wasn’t feeling great at all,” Brunson mentioned.
He tried to return final week in Sacramento however solely managed a half earlier than the harm was reaggravated.
“Leading up to that game, I felt good and didn’t really go as hard to kind of see where I could push myself,” Brunson mentioned. “And obviously game time, you’re going all out. I just felt very uncomfortable. I just knew I probably was just gonna be terrible for my team if I kept playing.”
The Knicks have received two straight.