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"I can understand his frustration": Michael Malone comes to Nikola Jokic's defense over ejection

Harrison Wind Avatar
December 23, 2018

Nikola Jokic may be on his way to the first All-Star game of his young career this February, but that doesn’t mean he’s reached All-Star status with the league’s officials.

Jokic was ejected from the Nuggets’ 132-111 loss against the Clippers on Saturday afternoon in the middle of the third quarter by referee Brett Nansel after protesting a personal foul call he was whistled for against Marcin Gortat. At that point in the game, Jokic hadn’t accrued either a technical or flagrant foul.

On Sunday, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he understood the root of Jokic’s frustration.

“Nikola Jokic has never gotten thrown out of a game before. Some people are going to say, ‘Well he did in the Laker game last year.’ That was rescinded. He shouldn’t have been thrown out,” Malone said. “So for Nikola to get that upset and frustrated, there’s a reason behind it. That is not in his nature to explode like that. And obviously when people do that they reach a breaking point, and I think his frustration was the perceived lack of calls against the Clippers last night and I can understand his frustration.”

Jokic was remorseful for his actions and apologized to Malone on the Nuggets’ flight back to Denver late Saturday night. Keeping his emotions in check, particularly when interacting with officials, is something Jokic continues to work on. In February, Jokic said he was going to stop arguing with officials because all it did was make him and his teammates “look bad.”

“I said, ‘Listen. I really appreciate you apologizing, but I understand where you’re coming from. I understand you got to a point where enough was enough and you lost it,'” Malone said. “It’s a great learning experience and we’ll move forward.”

Jokic was dominant leading up to his third-quarter ejection, posting 19 points, six rebounds and three assists in just 19 minutes of action. He still led the Nuggets in scoring for a sixth straight game despite not playing the fourth quarter.

Five of Jokic’s seven field goals against the Clippers also came with Gortat as the closest defender. The Clippers center, who said Jokic lacked a “respect for the game” when he bumped Wizards coach Scott Brooks at the conclusion of an October 2017 matchup between Denver and Washington where Gortat played last season, told reporters afterward that Jokic flops too much.

“He’s the biggest flopper in the history of NBA,” Gortat said. “Not only in this year in the league — in the history of NBA. He’s the biggest flopper, 300-pound dude and flopping all the time.

“At the end of the day, he’s very skilled, he doesn’t have to flop every time, but that’s what’s happening. All of a sudden, he pushes me out of bounds and he complains about it? It is what it is. Fouls being called both ways.”

Malik Beasley, who was seated on Denver’s bench directly behind the official who tossed Jokic, saw it differently.

“He got tossed pretty bad, but it was for a reason,” Beasley told BSN Denver. “He had to prove his point that he felt like he’s not fouling or he gets fouled and they’re not calling it.”

“He doesn’t get as many calls as he should. I don’t know why.”

The Nuggets and Clippers face off again Jan. 10 in Denver.

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