The Denver Post - - SPORTS -

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.

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