CHICAGO – Nikola Jokic chose his words carefully. At least he did that after the game.
“I like my money, so I’m not going to say anything,” said the two-time NBA MVP.
Jokic was ejected in the second quarter of Denver's 114-106 win at Chicago on Tuesday for language he directed at a referee after he felt he was fouled on a layup attempt.
Jokic finished with four points, nine rebounds and six assists in Denver's only scheduled visit to the United Center this season. After the 7-foot center was sent off, the crowd of 20,775 appeared to register their displeasure with the referees' decision.
“This is the first time I've seen this. I've never seen that before, when the opposing gym gets upset because the other team's star player got kicked out,” said Nuggets guard Justin Holiday. “Usually they say 'Yay' or boo the other player. But they were upset because he was being kicked out.”
Jokic protested after missing a reverse layup with 1:12 left in the first half, saying something in the direction of a referee as he walked back onto the court. He was promptly whistled for a coach and sent off by official Mousa Dagher.
“I crossed the line, but sometimes that word doesn’t cross the line,” Jokic said.
Nikola Jokic got kicked out and the United Center fans who paid to see him are NOT happy 😳 pic.twitter.com/XXxLrzUa0f
– Bull Talk (@NBCSBulls) December 13, 2023
Jokic declined to go into further detail because he wanted to avoid a fine from the NBA. Mark Lindsay, head of the officiating team, was also vague when asked about the switch.
“We don’t normally say publicly exactly what a player said, but the language met the standard for an ejection,” Lindsay told a pool reporter.
Denver coach Michael Malone spoke to the referees at halftime.
“I’m not going to use the phrase that Nikola allegedly used,” Malone said. “But he simply felt that the language used warranted an objection. A unique ejection (technical), which left me very shocked. And when I heard what he said, I said I didn't understand the problem because when I grew up that was a term of endearment in my house.”
Jokic, 28, was also ejected in the first half of the 107-103 win at Detroit on Nov. 20. Asked if he was concerned about Jokic's relationship with referees, Malone said he needs to do a better job of helping. your ace.
“If he’s getting fouled or thinks he’s getting fouled, let me handle the (technique),” Malone said. “That's my job as head coach because I don't want him to be put in that position of being sent off because it's not good for him and more importantly it's not good for the team.”
It was a tough blow for a short-handed Denver team that was coming off a 129-122 win at Atlanta on Monday night. Jamal Murray was held out because of ankle issues, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did not play in the second half after colliding with Bulls center Nikola Vucevic earlier in the night.
Veteran center DeAndre Jordan said he made a suggestion to Jokic to help avoid similar issues in the future.
“I think next time there will be a lot of Serbian swearing, I hope,” said Jordan, smiling.