Nikola’s Olympic Journey

by Jonathan Huang

Nikola Jokić has put the basketball world on notice.

Although Jokić and Team Serbia fell 96-66 in the gold medal matchup against the United States on Sunday afternoon, fans and media alike will be watching the young center carefully as he transitions into his second season in the NBA.

Jokić garnered some attention after finishing third in last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year race. To Nuggets fans who watched Jokić over the course of last year, the 21-year-old’s talent has never been in question. But this time around, he chose to use the world Olympic stage to shine the brightest.

In preliminary Olympic group play against Venezuela, Australia, and France, Jokić did a little bit of everything. He scored, rebounded the basketball, showcased savvy court vision, and blocked a few shots. Although Jokić had a bit of a tough time against the Aussies’ physical frontline of Andrew Bogut, Aron Baynes, and David Andersen, he continued to play with maximum effort. There were tougher matchups to come, including the United States, who had DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins manning the middle.

While the current NBA landscape has downsized at just about every position, Jokić is making the case that skilled big men are still relevant.

Early in group play, Jokić just couldn’t be stopped and almost singlehandedly guided the Serbians to an upset of the heavily-favored Americans. He finished the game with 25 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one blocked shot. The American defenders struggled to keep up at times as Jokić scored with a nifty post game, knocked down threes, and ran the pick-and-roll expertly with Serbian point guard Milos Teodosic. Although the Serbian team would go on to lose by three points, everyone was talking about Jokić’s breakout performance.

A couple of the Nuggets’ veteran players chimed in as well.

“[I love] watching the development of my man [Nikola Jokić],” guard Mike Miller wrote on Twitter.

Forward Wilson Chandler expressed his excitement by simply tweeting, “JOKIC!”

If people weren’t paying attention to the Nikola Jokić before, they certainly are now.

2016 Summer Olympics: Jokić Photos

Nikola Jokić represented Team Serbia in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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