The NBA, with more questions if you will in terms of collective quality and competitive temperament, manages a massive body of individual talent, a golden age of superstars, players of impossible production and qualities never seen before. There’s a notable list of MVP hopefuls. And we had for that course the usual voter fatigue, that handicap/unwritten law that punishes the recent winner and drives excitement for the new. That is why, in part, no one has been a three-time MVP since Larry Bird between 1984 and 1986when the French Lick redneck he played one of the most incredible stretches of basketball in the entire history of this game. Before Bird, only Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain achieved that threepeat of MVPs, in the sixties. Then, in the modern age, no one. Neither Michael Jordan first, nor Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Stephen Curry or LeBron James himself.
Those are the names: Russell, Chamberlain, Bird. An instant chill. Major words in capital letters and in bold. Y to that list he begins to look more and more intently, and we have already passed the middle of the season, Nikola Jokic. The Serbian has won the last two MVPs and, more or less, we all expected a change this season. Fix the grievance that Joel Embiid feels, confirm the promotion of Luka Doncic, return the award to the United States five years later (James Harden, 2018, before two by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the two by Jokic). But, past the equator of January, Jokic is the favorite to win again. There’s no more. In fact, he is beginning to be a more or less clear favorite. Or as clear as can be considered in this career filled with, I repeat, special talent and statistics full of exclamations.
Let’s put this last game, against the Trail Blazers (122-113 for Denver Nuggets). Damian Lillard, an amazing talent in himself, had 30 points at halftime (the sixth game in a row in which he had reached that figure, this time on the fast track) and finished with 44. But it is that Jokic, like someone who goes out to do the purchase in flip flops, billed 36 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists with, for the love of Goda 13/14 in field goals. When the last quarter unraveled, the Serbian put the victory to good use (119-99 at 3:47 from the end) while Lillard took a technique after conceding badly that three personal points were pointed out to him almost in a row. He didn’t care that during stretches of the first half the game seemed like a dazzling collision of super stars. In the end, one of them was far above, on a supreme level. Higher. That is what happens, right now, with this Nikola Jokic and almost any rival.
Jokic has 13 triple-doubles this season and the Nuggets are 13-0 in those games. He averages 25 points, 11 rebounds and 9.8 assists with a 69.8% shooting percentage. true shooting percentage, the extent to which the effectiveness of all shots converge. Until now, the best TS% in history with at least 25 points on average is Stephen Curry’s 67.5 in the 2017-18 season. So Jokic could be signing the most efficient season ever. And his Nuggets lead the West (31-13), have the best record in the NBA (12 losses against the Celtics) and accumulate Seven wins in a row and fourteen without a miss in Denverthat Mile High where the altitude and mileage crushes so many rivals before even the initial jump. The rest is done by a special player who is increasingly surrounded better: Jamal Murray more and more Jamal MurrayMichael Porter Jr is also appearing (23 points this time), Aaron Gordon can dedicate himself to covering holes all over the track and this year there are hard workers invaluable like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown. The Nuggets are 20-3 in Denver, they’re getting better as the weeks go on (17-3 in the last 20 games) and their franchise player seems capable of doing whatever it takes for his team to win. And that it doesn’t seem too hard. That is MVP material, as dizzy as it seems to be the third in a row.
The Blazers, after the balm of their double confrontation against some exhausted Mavericks after the two overtimes against the Lakers, returned to their old ways. Is it so 21-23, out of play in in that part of the West where every day you wake up in a different place: They have one more defeat than the sixth and one less than the thirteenth. They’ve lost their last eight games away from Oregon, so they didn’t seem like the best opponent to break the Nuggets’ streak at home, after all. Now, Chauncey Billups’ men have six games at home, a stretch in which they have to tie up victories given their performance when they travel and how disappointing their season is so far. Again, there was no viable second option next to Lillard. Neither was Grant without Simons. The bench has little to do and Nurkic’s role seems increasingly questionable. So or is there swerve It won’t be another year of high expectations and disappointing results for the Blazers-Lillard tandem. We’ll see, there’s still time.