Nuggets’ Michael Malone: Nikola Jokic one of the most “disrespected reigning MVPs”

The Nuggets took the Christmas Day snub personally.

It was just the latest example, in their eyes, of the NBA’s disrespect toward Nikola Jokic, last season’s MVP. That bled into national attention on Jokic, narratives and perceived assumptions about Denver’s franchise superstar and yielded a remark Tuesday night that had no doubt been brewing within Nuggets coach Michael Malone.

“We don’t ever take him for granted in Denver,” Malone said ahead of the Nuggets’ matchup against the Clippers. “I think he is one of the more disrespected reigning MVPs that I can think of in terms of the attention that he gets. If you open up the dictionary, and you look up the word consistency, there’s going to be a picture of Nikola there. And that’s going back to the Bubble. That’s going back to a 72-game season last year. And this year …”

While Malone might not admit it, he’s also shrewd enough to know that a testament like that rings louder when it’s uttered in Los Angeles as opposed to Denver.

He’s also not immune to what makes Jokic less appealing than, say, LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“Nikola Jokic is not sexy,” Malone began. “He’s just not. There’s nothing about Nikola … (although) his wife might disagree…”

Jokic won’t lead SportsCenter’s Top-10 plays with a breakaway dunk or unleash some stunning athletic feat like swatting a shot into the fifth row. But what’s special about Jokic, according to Malone and anyone who watches the Nuggets closely, is his feel, IQ, playmaking and processing. It’s unlike almost any star in the NBA and is special in and of itself, a skill to behold even if it’s not celebrated the same way.

Without sidekick Jamal Murray (ACL) or Michael Porter Jr. (back surgery) or P.J. Dozier (ACL), or now his close friend Vlatko Cancar (foot fracture), Jokic has still kept the Nuggets in the hunt. And he’s arguably been better than he was last season. In their last seven games, which has included a revolving door of coaches and teammates, the Nuggets are 5-2. There’s no bigger reason than Jokic’s continued dominance.

Rivers scare: Malone said that Austin Rivers was temporarily hospitalized Monday night due to an allergic reaction. The team was at an optional shootaround at UCLA, when Rivers had to be taken to the hospital while having trouble breathing, according to Malone.

Fortunately, he left the hospital later Monday night, woke up Tuesday and attended shootaround like normal. He was expected to play against the Clippers.

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