Nikola Jokic is in Belgrade, Serbia this week to help host a basketball without borders camp in his home country. The three-day event began today and some well-known NBA players and coaches are in attendance including Jokic’s teammate, Gary Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Gregg Popovich, and Nikola Vucevic. This morning, Jokic gave an interview to B92.net and provided an update on his offseason workouts, his thoughts on the reloaded western conference, and the addition of Isaiah Thomas.
The full interview is below and has been translated using google translate, so take the interview with a grain of salt.
”This summer I spent all the time in Sombor with Nebojsa Vagic (Jokic’s godfather and the assistant coach for FMP Belgrade). I worked on various things, I’m trying to be better in all aspects of the game. It’s a cliche but it’s really like that, I’m trying to be better. I wish that at the end of next season I’ll have better statistics since this shows progress, and progress is one of the most important things in basketball,“ Jokic began.
They criticize that you are bad in the defense, but the advanced statistics “like” you?
”They say that I am good, and I say the same, and they do not believe me. I’m joking, certainly not just me, but the whole team has to play a better defense and invest more pride in not letting ourselves on. They always say that defense wins championships and that we have to correct it. To trust each other and help,” emphasizes Nikola.
Lebron James in the Western Conference is not interested in him because he is a match like everyone else, but he thinks primarily of his team.
”What do I say now?” As a match, I do not think honestly about any other opponent, just about our team.” Whoever we play against, we certainly have a drawback and we will look for their faults. As we both have our faults and they look for our faults. Surely he is one of the best, I think the best player in the NBA means a lot for them, and for us...nothing.“
He kept the focus on his team but he was not ready to respond to questions about the national team at this time.
“I’m not talking about that now, for gods sake is this all you are interested in?” he says with a smile.
In the same tone he talks about his current status.
”I’m a little bigger now. I looked into the mirror, I grew up. I do not know what it is, maybe it’s this white shirt. I’m joking I’m really working hard on my body. I’ve been in a big, strong, gradual training for two months. I get training from a fitness trainer from Denver, so it’s all under some control. We’ll see, I really do not know how it will look when I start to play, but I’m satisfied at the moment. I’m the same weight as always, we’ll see how it will looks,“ says Jokic, who does not want to speculate on the number of wins Denver can get this year.
”I do not know, I would love to have one more last year and to play in the playoffs. Nobody knows that. I think we have to play against the weaker teams much more seriously because we lost a lot (of games to losing teams) so I think it’s some kind of thing we need to pay attention to.“
Enough has been “stirring” the faces of the league, so the game will also adapt to the changes in the teams.
”Well, I do not really know, it’s a game...when the game comes, then I can tell you. It can happen that someone is not in shape...it has changed a lot. Houston has changed a lot, Golden State has not changed so much, DeMarcus Cousins...There, for example, he will not play for half a season, the boy is injured. As when we brought Milsap, he hurt himself...so I can not tell you more about the details but when the game comes, you play against the team, it does not matter to you who plays.“
Denver had Jameer Nelson in the previous season. Isaiah Thomas is a player of similar “magnitude.”
”They want him in Denver, and I think that’s a good feeling for him, because he’s going to a team where they want him, where he will be satisfied. Now he will probably give his maximum. I honestly tell you, I think it will be very good for our team. We do not have such a player, but we will see when the training camp starts and when we start to play,“ Jokic explains.
Jokić briefly talked about how he spends his free time.
”I play games, I spend time with a girlfriend, with a brother who comes in. I go for a walk, dinner, I do not have anything special.” I play League of Legends and Call of Duty. FIFA, NBA 2K is normal. With Bogdan and Teo when Teo and Bobby we played Teo and I against my middle brother and Bobby we broke them in Fifa,“ says Jokic.
Asked whether he was playing with himself and whether he liked the ratings given to him by the NBA.
”No, I can not stand it, I can not curse at myself. As it is now, it’s not interesting to me, I do not know what kind of a ranking I have. My brother knows. He only plays with me and he’s awful, it makes me bad.”
And does it mean to him that many people remain awake to watch Denver in recent years?
”I feel the most about my family, especially my dad. He looks at every game of mine. It’s nice to know when your friends send you a picture to watch you, it means, you’re not alone, you have support, and then you can do a bit more you also play because of them, to try. It’s a great thing, it means a lot when the society and friends you socialize with watch the games instead of sleep,“ Jokic concludes.