Nuggets Star Nikola Jokic Escapes Ban after Clash with Suns owner
LOS ANGELES – Denver Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic was fined US$25,000 (S$33,000) by the National Basketball Association (NBA) on Monday but will not be subject to a suspension after an on-court run-in with Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia during Game 4 of the Western Conference semi-finals.
NBA head of basketball operations Joe Dumars said in a statement that the fine was “for making improper conduct with a spectator sitting courtside”.
Following the incident on Sunday, Ishbia made a plea on Monday for Jokic not to be suspended.
Jokic was assessed a technical foul in the second quarter at Phoenix after making contact with Ishbia.
After Jokic blocked Deandre Ayton’s lay-up attempt, Suns guard Josh Okogie and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray scrambled for the loose ball, with Okogie – and the ball – flying into the first row of seats, close to where Ishbia was sitting.
Ishbia ended up with the ball, and Jokic came over to try and strip it from him. Jokic was somewhat successful in his attempt, but as he was prying the ball loose, the Suns owner seemed to swat it, prompting the two-time Most Valuable Player to push him aside.
The gesture sent Ishbia back into his seat, where he flailed his arms up into the air as fans in the surrounding area reacted with shock.
“Great win for the Suns last night in an amazing series so far! That should be and is the only story,” Ishbia tweeted on Monday. “Suspending or fining anyone over last night’s incident would not be right. I have alot of respect for Jokic and don’t want to see anything like that. Excited for game 5! Go Suns!”
The Suns tied the best-of-seven series at 2-2 with a 129-124 win despite a monster game from Jokic, who finished with 53 points and 11 assists.
“The fan put the hand on me first,” the player said after the game. “I thought the league was supposed to protect us. Maybe I am wrong. I know who he is, but he is a fan. Isn’t he?“
Game 5 is set for Tuesday night in Denver.
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