Nuggets Briefs DENVER ADDING SOME FLAIR WITH BUZZ-WORTHY PASSING FEATS
About a week before the Harlem Globetrotters showed up to perform in Denver, Nikola Jokic had the look of a guy trying out for basketball’s traveling circus.
In the middle of a routine break in play during a recent game at the Pepsi Center, the young center for the Nuggets casually tossed the ball in the air and caught it with one finger as the ball continued to spin tightly. With the ball still rotating, Jokic nonchalantly passed the ball with one finger to a referee.
That easy flair made the answer to this question an easy one: Which Nugget could most seamlessly join the Globetrotters when they played in Denver on Saturday afternoon?
“It would be Jokic,” center Mason Plumlee said. “He’s got the nickname (The Joker) and he’s got the passes.”
“Nikola,” guard Gary Harris said. “That’s an easy one.”
“It would be Nikola Jokic,” coach Michael Malone said, making the choice unanimous. “He would be a natural. When I see him I think of Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal, Marcus Haynes, the old-school ’Trotters.”
Jokic is the catalyst, but he isn’t the only reason the Nuggets have looked like the Globetrotters with the way they have passed the basketball this season, particularly lately. Players were buzzing in the Denver locker room after a win over the Clippers on Thursday night about the unselfish manner in which the ball was skipping across the court while they produced 31 assists on 46 baskets.
It starts with Jokic, who has made it clear he’d rather make a crisp back-door pass — behind his head perhaps — for a layup than shoot a jumper any day.
“He’s one of the best passers in the league,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said before the Rockets and Nuggets met Saturday night.
Since Jokic was inserted as their starting center Dec. 15, the Nuggets rank third in the NBA in assist percentage, with 64.1 percent of their scoring coming off assists.
The movement has also played a direct role in the Nuggets’ rise as a 3-point shooting outfit. Denver ranks sixth in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 37.3 percent. The Nuggets were 26th last season at 33.8 percent.
“A lot of guys can pass but don’t want to,” Plumlee said. “We have guys who are willing to share the ball.”
“It’s contagious,” Harris added.
Nuggets forwards Danilo Gallinari (knee), Darrell Arthur (knee) and Wilson Chandler (groin) missed their third consecutive game.