Denver Nuggets center and two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic was assessed a technical foul for contact with Phoenix Suns owner Matt Ishbia during the second quarter of Sunday’s Western Conference semifinal game. Here’s what you need to know:
- Suns forward Josh Okogie dived into the crowd for a loose ball in Ishbia’s hands. Okogie caught the ball as the fans helped him.
- Jocic then tried to wrestle the ball away from Ishbia who was reluctant to give it away. The Nuggets center made contact with him after the ball was loose.
- A fan was ejected from his seat for contacting Jokic. After the incident, Ishbia remained in her seat. The Suns released a statement saying, “A participant has been transferred to diffuse the situation.”
- The Suns beat the Nuggets in Game 4 129-124. The series is tied at 2-2.
Confusion in the court premises
Ishbiya was sitting in her usual owner’s seats. Hall of Fame point guard and Detroit Pistons “Bad Boy” Isiah Thomas, who has been around the Suns’ franchise throughout the playoffs, sits to his right. Jokic wanted the ball so Denver could get inside quickly, but Okogie was still trying to untangle himself from the crowd.
As Jokic took the ball, Ishbia tried to catch it. The ball bounced back into the crowd. Jokic doesn’t appreciate it. He looked at Ishbiya and nudged him with his left elbow.
Ishbia, a former Michigan State walk-on basketball player, sold it and fell back into her seat. The crowd roared. The officials reviewed the line and the jockey had a game technical foul. – Haller
Will Jokic be suspended or should he?
Having been in this position before, it’s too bad. Your team is about to play the biggest game of the season and you don’t know if your star will be there. It happened to us in Memphis in 2014 when Zach Randolph was suspended for Game 7 against Oklahoma City, and now the Nuggets will face a similar situation ahead of a big Game 5 on Tuesday.
It will take some time for the league to resolve this, but the schedule is for them to decide within 48 hours, and realistically a little sooner. They will certainly interview Jokic, Okogie and others before making a ruling, but at some point Joe Dumars’ office will have to make the call. (And, of course, Commissioner Adam Silver will have his finger on the pulse here, too).
Fans of Sun of a Certain Age are, of course, well aware of this as well. They were involved in one of the most impactful Game 5 second-round suspensions in NBA history in 2007, when Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended for a crucial game in their eventual loss to San Antonio.
Will Nikola Jokic be suspended after clashing with Suns owner Matt Ishbia?
So what happens? The first place to understand is that the NBA has taken a much harder line on player interactions with opposing fans since the 2004 “Malice at the Palace” between Detroit and Indiana. again and again. That’s why even relatively innocuous violations – Gently rocking a ball sideways into the crowd, let’s say — an instant technical error is welcomed. What Jokic did is a shade of gray, the shade of which is determined by which of those two teams you support.
The letter of the law says players can’t go into the crowd, but Jokic was still on the hardwood when the incident with Isbia happened. Plus, he doesn’t start beefs with fans, but rather gets the ball back and tries to instigate a change the other way.
Another important part here is that the authorities in the court have already considered the play and given a verdict. Suspensions are more likely if the officials infringe during the game. In his comments to a pool reporter, leading official Tony Brothers deemed it unworthy of dismissal.
“I thought the technical foul was the right punishment for what happened there,” Brothers said. “(Jokic) didn’t run and hit the fan. There was some engagement, so I considered it a fitting punishment for a technical foul.
Based on that precedent, and Jokic not being in Draymond Green/Marcus Morris territory, based on previous visits to the president’s office, I think he’s more likely to be. No Suspended. But after Green’s somewhat surprising suspension for Game 5 in the first round, I can’t rule out the possibility.
I would disable it for a 1 in 3 chance of that happening. I think it would be a mistake if I did that, and at the end of the day, it was a completely over-the-top clearance for what was a very benign bit of theater. – Hollinger
What are they saying?
Jokic addressed the incident postgame.
“He (the referee) told me I was going to elbow the fan, but the fan put his hands on me first,” Jokic said. “I thought the league was supposed to protect us. But I could be wrong.”
“He got us a point,” Devin Booker said. “He did his job there.”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It was never my focus. I saw a huddle there. The next play, I was worried about making sure our guys didn’t go out of bounds. I saw Jockey get a technical, and that was it.
(Photo: Christian Peterson/Getty Images)