Nikola Jokic Says Players Distracted by Trade Deadline 'Are Not Professionals'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2021

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) dribbles the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

Denver Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokic has said players shouldn't be distracted by trade rumors. 

Jokic explained his stance after the Nuggets' 135-111 blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, less than 24 hours before Thursday's 2021 NBA trade deadline at 3 p.m. ET.

"If they are [distracted], they are not professionals," Jokic told reporters. "First you represent yourself and then you represent [your] team. ... If you want to get traded, you don't play for yourself or Nuggets, in this case. You play for all 29 other teams. It's something that cannot happen. I don't see that. I mean, for me, it's unprofessional."

The 26-year-old Serbian, who added he wasn't calling out any of his own teammates specifically with the comments, is one of the league's best players and won't be moved before the deadline, but he's no stranger to dealing with speculation as the focus of some trade rumors earlier in his career.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone agreed the deadline shouldn't impact a player's performance.

"If you want to be a good team, which we say we want to be, you can't have performances like this," Malone said. "I don't buy into all that mumbo-jumbo trade deadline anxiety, this, that and the other thing. They got guys in their locker room that have trade deadline anxiety as well. Guess what? They went out there and balled tonight."

Forward Paul Millsap was more understanding of the uncertainty faced by those players who could have their lives changed by a deadline move.

"We're human beings, man," Millsap said. "We're humans. A lot of fans don't know that, obviously. We are human beings. It's just like anybody else, whose job could be on the line of relocating and moving the whole family in a situation. It's a tough thing to do, but it's part of the job description. ... Nobody likes to be relocated."

The remarks from Jokic and Malone were likely based on the frustration stemming from one of Denver's worst performances of the season. It struggled at both ends of the floor, shooting just 41.8 percent from the field while allowing Toronto make 50.6 percent of its field-goal attempts, including 24 made threes.

Although the Nuggets haven't been one of the more talked-about teams leading up to the deadline, ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported Tuesday they'd checked in on the availability of New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball, who would be a welcome addition to the backcourt alongside Jamal Murray.

Even if they don't land Ball, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them make a smaller move or two to bolster a roster that currently sits fifth in the Western Conference with a 26-18 record.