During the second quarter of Sunday’s Game 4 between the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets, Nikola Jokić could be seen shoving Suns owner Mat Ishbia.
The incident occurred when the player went into the courtside seats to retrieve a loose ball that had bounced out of bounds. Before the center athlete could retrieve the ball, the Suns’ owner grabbed it and held onto it, despite Jokić attempting to get it back. In an attempt to corral the ball, the Denver star shoved Ishbia, causing him to fall back into the seats.
Following the shove, the Serbian basketball player was issued a technical foul, rather than a suspension. According to referee Tony Brothers, the decision to not eject the player was made calculatedly.
“I just deemed the technical foul the appropriate penalty for what happened over there,” Brothers told a pool reporter after the game. “He didn’t just run over and hit a fan. There was some engagement, so I deemed the technical foul the appropriate penalty.”
Nikola Jokić says NBA ‘failed to protect him’ during interaction with Mat Ishbia
After Game 4, the NBA announced on social media that Jokić would receive a $25k fine for making “improper contact” with a spectator. With this being said, the Nuggets star argued that Ishbia was the aggressor and that the league failed to protect him in the scuffle as a player.
“He cannot influence the game holding the ball,” Jokić explained. “His hand’s on me. So they’re not gonna protect me? They’re gonna protect the fan? Not me as a person, but I’m talking about as a player.”
He added the sentiments, “They don’t care. I think they’re supposed to protect players. … I think he’s supposed to get kicked out if he’s influencing the game.”
In response to the interaction, Ishbia also stated in a press conference he didn’t believe the Denver player deserved to be fined or suspended for what went down. The Sun’s owner relayed, “Suspending or fining anyone over last night’s incident would not be right. I have a lot of respect for Jokić and don’t want to see anything like that. Excited for game 5! Go Suns!”
Thankfully for the two NBA figures, the beef was squashed by Game 5. In a pre-game warm-up, the two could be seen embracing one another and Jokić even joked about Ishbia paying his fine. “I was hoping he was gonna pay my fine, but no,” he laughed in a pre-game interview.
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