Daily Camera (Boulder)

Giannis not fooled by Jokic’s antics


NBA champion and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokoun­mpo knows better than to be fooled by Nikola Jokic.

He sees past his goofy exterior and unique dominance, well aware that Joker is currently traversing the same mountain The Freak has already conquered. In other words, he knows something the rest of us don’t.

“He’s just focused about his game,” Antetokoun­mpo said. “I love that. He doesn’t care about social media … He’s just locked in on just being great on the basketball court. That’s what I’m about. Can you call that obsession? For sure. Sometimes, people that they’re obsessed, that are killers on the basketball court, can identify that in other people.”

Asked specifical­ly whether he was calling Jokic a killer, Antetokoun­mpo nodded.

“He’s one of those guys that is having a great season, and he only goes about basketball,” Antetokoun­mpo said. “He takes care of business. He only cares about basketball. I’m the same way. I love that about people like that.”

If Antetokoun­mpo sees it, then why shouldn’t the rest of us?

Don’t be bamboozled by the way he ambles around the All-star practice court, aimlessly heaving halfcourt shots, or his awe-shucks answers when he’s forced to sit for 30 minutes and fulfill his media obligation­s. Don’t be misled when his stated goal for Sunday night’s All-star Game was to avoid going scoreless, or by the fact that Jokic was among the final two starters picked during the All-star draft.

“As long as I have two points …,” said Jokic, only half kidding.

When he finally scored on a simple putback layup midway through the second quarter, he fist-pumped toward his bench in celebratio­n of the bucket. It was a decent enough gift for his 28th birthday. When he fidgets with an All-star microphone, revisiting postseason rivalries of years past, understand that he knows exactly what’s he doing. At Allstar weekend, his best performanc­es tend to come not on the court but in front of the cameras, where he purports to be uncomforta­ble. Don’t be confused when he claims to care about another MVP award, before revealing he only answered in the affirmativ­e because the prior seven times he was asked the question, he said he was indifferen­t.

Jokic is not your typical All-star. Within Sunday’s exhibition, he set screens, deflected passes, boxed out and ran pick-and-roll. When Denver’s coaching staff reviews film from the exhibition, Jokic can be proud of the highlights he put on tape.

Though he’s learned to have fun with the weekend’s obligation­s, Jokic was dead serious when he identified his least favorite part of being a profession­al athlete.

“Media,” he said.

Not because he doesn’t understand the practice, or even fans’ curiosity in his game, but because there’s very little untapped territory with Jokic. The twotime MVP joked he’d become boring with his answers because of how often he’s asked to offer his insights. When a reporter followed up, asking Jokic whether it was fair to include the concept of celebrity within Jokic’s least favorite aspects of being a profession­al, he commended the question.

“Media and celebrity, out, everything else, good,” he said, as if full sentences were beneath him.

Among the more unique questions Jokic was asked prior to Sunday’s All-star Game was whether he’d prefer to give up his phone, laptop or video game console.

“My goal is to (not) use my phone when I finish my career,” he said in one enlighteni­ng moment before offering up another less surprising anecdote. “I just need Youtube to watch horse racing.”

Don’t fall for his cute answers, or his theatrics, his apparent indifferen­ce or his humility. Jokic is a basketball savage. Just ask Antetokoun­mpo.

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