It was late April, towards the tip of a season that would simply finish in a Nuggets championship, and Denver simply accomplished a back-to-back set towards the Knicks and Nets. The subsequent recreation was in Washington D.C., however apparently Nikola Jokic first wanted to scratch an itch.
So in keeping with a pal and fellow horse-racing fanatic, Jokic known as a celebrity audible on the crew’s journey plans.
“They were taking the train to Washington and he made them wait three more hours so he could work with horses,” Tim Tetrick informed the Daily News. “I joked to him, ‘So you’re like Dennis Rodman. You got to get your fix.’”
As Tetrick understands nicely, Jokic’s cravings aren’t practically as harmful as Rodman’s well-known Vegas escapades involving booze and Carmen Electra. Jokic, more and more acknowledged as the perfect basketball participant on the planet, is hooked on horses. Specifically, race horses.
The ardour led to a reference to Tetrick, 41, a Hall of Fame New Jersey-based harness racer who has been dominating the Meadowlands observe, amongst different sizzling spots, for over 15 years.
Following a textual content trade, Tetrick turned Jokic’s information to the racing scene in America, with an emphasis on the New Jersey space. In January, as an illustration, Jokic landed in Philadelphia at 3:30 a.m. earlier than a recreation towards the Sixers, and was knocking on Tetrick’s door by 6 a.m. They drove to a horse farm, then the Dover Downs racetrack.
Last season, Jokic flew into New York and met Tetrick on the Meadowlands observe earlier than dropping 32 factors on the Knicks.
“He told me, ‘My job is basketball, but my passion is horse racing,’” Tetrick stated. “[Jokic] stated, ‘I would trade you jobs in a heartbeat if it paid better.’
“Just a down-to-earth kind of dude. Lowkey,” Tetrick added. “You wouldn’t know he gets paid $40 million a year to play basketball. He shows up with sweats to the barn. Then he’s got his training suit and jumps in and he just loves to hang out.”
Tetrick estimates he took Jokic to ‘six or seven’ totally different farms. But Jokic solely trains the horses. He observes and jogs with them. Racing is out of the query. Jokic’s physique is price an excessive amount of to threat harm.
“I was going to have a match race with him and he said, ‘Tim I want to so bad, but the insurance is not going to let me,’” Tetrick, who has received over 12,000 races with over $250 million in profession earnings, stated.
Visually, it’s an unlikely pairing. Jokic is a 7-foot big. Tetrick is 5-7. Jokic’s slow-developing and improvisational basketball recreation is just about the alternative of horse racing.
But Jokic fell in love with animals lengthy earlier than basketball. The ardour developed in his residence nation of Serbia, the place Jokic hung across the stables and raced as an beginner.
To the uninitiated, it’s a mysterious pleasure. Tetrick defined the draw.
“He’s an athlete. And most of the standardbred breeds and thoroughbred breeds, they’re athletes, too,” Tetrick stated. “I feel he sees the trouble he has taken in coaching to get in high kind, to have the ability to do what he does, to get by means of that seven-game sequence. Compared to the horses, and identical with us. When we prepare for an enormous race, our horses must be match, they must be sound, they must be wholesome. Same factor with gamers. There are occasions once they don’t play as a result of they’re sore. Same approach with the horses. If they’re sore, they’ll’t compete. Our horses in our sport, we deal with them like an NBA basketball participant and we give them each they’ll ever want.
“I love going to the barn and seeing those beautiful animals. It’s like having a good dog. They’re fun to be around. You can tell the difference between a champion horse and the one that’s going to make the JV team. It’s their attitude. Like Joker’s brothers are bigger than him. And he said they can’t play basketball at all.”
While touring and ingratiating himself within the native horse racing group, Jokic developed a loyal fanbase. Tetrick stated he obtained a whole bunch of excited texts Wednesday after the Nuggets cruised to a simple Game 3 Finals win over the Heat.
Jokic additionally texted Tetrick earlier than tipoff. The topic? A harness race from days earlier on the Yonkers Raceway.
“I said, you got a game in 30 minutes,” Tetrick recalled.
Jokic did simply fantastic, by the way in which: Thirty-two factors, 21 rebounds, 10 assists. Pretty quickly he’ll get to benefit from the stables extra usually. Perhaps with an NBA Finals MVP on his resume.
“Every time we’ve rode around and driven around with me, spent 10 to 12 hours in a car, he’s like, don’t talk to me about basketball. Let’s talk about horses,” Tetrick stated. “And I’m like, I don’t want to talk about horses.”