If you know where to look, basketball season has already arrived.
You don’t need to wait until October 19, when Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. make their highly anticipated comeback in Utah for the Nuggets season opener. If you, like some of us at The Denver Post, need your basketball fix, we can’t stress enough: EuroBasket will scratch that itch.
(That’s to say nothing of the compelling WNBA playoffs, where former Nuggets teammate Sue Bird was in the semifinals and battling for a championship in her final season.)
This iteration of the European Championship features three of the five best basketball players in the world, a full stop. Two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Generations superstar Luka Doncic (Slovenia) and two-time Denver superstar, Nikola Jokic (Serbia), are all set to feature at least five group stage matches followed by the knockout rounds.
If we’re into gambling, there’s going to be a week’s pay that indicates next season’s best player will come out of this trio. Jokic, the first back-to-back player of the year since Larry Bird in the mid-’80s? Daring! What kind of Rakija were we hitting?
As if his social media highlight wasn’t proof enough, word from The Nuggets is that their superstar is in the best shape of his life. They have sent several members of the team’s performance squad to Europe to follow up on it, and the other front office members will be there as Serbia inevitably reach the playoffs in Berlin.
– #EuroBasket 2022 (EuroBasket) September 2, 2022
But for now, we’ll have to accept a medal contender who plays with fewer opponents like the one he’ll see next week. (All games, conveniently, are on ESPN+).
Watching Jokic cut through the Netherlands in Serbia’s inaugural win on Friday was akin to the sculpting he used to put up against one of his favorite opponents – jazz. With any luck, Serbia in Group D will meet France in Group B later in the tournament, as Jazz-turned-Timberwolf Rudi Gobert will try to derail Jokic’s momentum. With more luck, Djokic will head to Slovenia, where Doncic and his colleague Naget Vlatko Kankar will attempt to impose Balkan hegemony on their friend.
In the opening game, Jokic scored 19 team points in 21 minutes, playing his brand of ruthlessly effective basketball. For those who appreciate his selfless approach while cementing the Denver offensive, it’s even more prevalent with his national team, as the Serbs seem inclined to participate. Vasilije Micic scored 12 assists, including one that found Joker rolling over the edge for a dunk. The Jokic rear dime for Marko Guduric’s piece was an unnecessary reminder that he is still among the best passersby in the world.
Lest you think the championship meant nothing to him, you should have seen him sing every word of his country’s national anthem before the game, standing up and applauding the efforts of his teammates as Serbia scooped a win and communicated with an official like only he could do. Yes, Jokic technically made a mistake when he went head-to-head with an official, which apparently wasn’t giving him the whistle he felt he deserved. Lots of Continental respect.
If you appreciate his unique dominance over NBA players, it’s endlessly fun to watch him in the element that spawned his original foundation. On more than one occasion, the raucous “MVP” hymn has blasted across broadcasts from Prague. Comfortable in front of his countrymen – and still at the height of his powers – Djokic walked out of court and thanked those present.
– JokicMuse (@Aleks_lvr95) September 2, 2022
If you enjoy watching the best basketball player in the world go to work, what are you waiting for?