Nikola Jokić receives technical advice after contacting Suns owner Mat Ishbia in Game 4: Could he be suspended?

Denver Nuggets center and two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić was given a technical foul for making contact with Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia in the second quarter of Game 4 of the Conference Semifinals West Sunday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Suns forward Josh Okogie dove into the crowd for a loose ball that bounced into Ishbia’s hands. He held the ball as the fans helped Okogie up.
  • Jokić then tried to grab the ball from Ishbia, who was reluctant to give up the ball. The Nuggets center made contact with him after the ball went free.
  • A fan was removed from his seat for making contact with Jokić. Ishbia remained in her place after the incident. The Suns released a statement saying “A participant was moved to defuse the situation.”
  • The Suns won Game 4 129-124 over the Nuggets. The series is tied 2-2.

AthleticismInstant analysis of:

Bustle at the edge of the yard

Ishbia sat in her usual owner’s seat. To his right was Hall of Fame point guard and Detroit Pistons “Bad Boy” Isiah Thomas, who rubbed shoulders with the Suns owner throughout the playoffs. Jokić wanted the ball so Denver could get in quickly, but Okogie was still trying to disentangle himself from the crowd.

As Jokić picked up the ball, it looked like Ishbia was trying to hold onto it. The ball returned to the crowd. Jokić did not appreciate this. He looked at Ishbia and nudged him with his left elbow.

Ishbia, a former Michigan State basketball player, sold it and fell back into his seat. The crowd booed. Officials reviewed the footage and gave Jokić an unsportsmanlike technical foul. -Haller

Will or should Jokic be suspended?

Having been in this position before is the worst. Your team is about to play its biggest game of the season, and you don’t know if your star will be available. It happened to us in Memphis, when Zach Randolph was suspended for Game 7 against Oklahoma City in 2014, and now the Nuggets will face a similar situation ahead of a huge Game 5 on Tuesday.

The league will likely take some time to decide on this, but the timeline demands that they decide in 48 hours, and realistically a little sooner. They will surely interview Jokić, Okogie and others before making a decision, but at some point Joe Dumars’ office has to make a call. (And, surely, Commissioner Adam Silver will have his finger on the scales here too).

Suns fans of a certain age, of course, also know him intimately. They were involved in the most impactful Game 5 second-round suspension in NBA history in 2007, when Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended for a crucial game they ultimately lost to San Antonio.


Will Nikola Jokić be suspended after his clash with Suns owner Mat Ishbia?

So what will happen? The first place to start is understanding that the NBA has taken a very hard line on player interactions with opposing fans, something that dates back to the 2004 “Malice at the Palace” between Detroit and Indiana, and an overwhelming desire to never have that. even repeat itself. This is why even relatively minor offenses — gently heeling a ball through the crowd, say – are greeted with an immediate technical foul. What Jokic has done falls into a gray area, an area whose shadow is probably determined by which of the two teams you support.

The letter of the law is that players cannot enter the crowd, but Jokic was still on hardwood when the incident with Ishbia happened. Also, he wasn’t there to start the beef with the fans but rather to get the ball back and try to spark a transition the other way.

The other important thing here is that the officials on the field have already reviewed and rendered a decision on the game. Suspensions are much more likely when the officials miss a transgression during the game. In it, senior manager Tony Brothers looked on and judged he didn’t deserve to be ejected, in his comments to a poolside reporter.

“I just took the technical foul as the appropriate sanction for what happened there,” Brothers said. “(Jokic) didn’t just run and hit a fan. There was some engagement, so I considered the technical foul to be the appropriate sanction.

Based on all of this precedent and the fact that Jokic isn’t quite in Draymond Green/Marcus Morris territory when it comes to previous visits to the manager’s office, I think it’s more likely that he be not suspended. But I can hardly rule that possibility out either, especially after Green’s somewhat surprising suspension for Game 5 in the first round.

I’m going to cripple him as a 1 in 3 chance of that happening. I also think it would be a mistake if that were the case, a completely over the top punishment for what was, in the end, a fairly innocuous bit of theater. —Hollinger

What they say

Jokić addressed the incident after the game.

“He (the referee) told me that I was nudging the fan, but the fan put his hands on me first,” Jokić said. “I thought the league was supposed to protect us. But maybe I’m wrong.

“He gave us a point,” Devin Booker said. “He did his job there.”

“I didn’t even know what was going on,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “That’s never my goal. I just saw a crowd there. I was worried about the next game and making sure our guys didn’t cross the line. I saw that Jokić had a technician and that was it.

(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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