The NBA recently suspended Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic for one game because he stepped out of the bench area during an altercation in a game versus the Utah Jazz. This, to be nice, was not the right move.
If you look at the fight and watch Jokic on the bench, he stands up, takes about three or four steps towards the fight, which was about fifteen feet away from the bench, and then stops. He did not have any role in the fight. The suspension cost him roughly $170,000. $170,000 for not doing anything. Now the suspension ultimately did not cost the Nuggets anything, as they demolished the Phoenix Suns by 37 in the game Jokic missed, but that is not the point. Nikola Jokic is not a face of the NBA by any means, and the Nuggets don’t normally get media attention unless the Los Angeles Lakers are involved. It is the double standards between the big and small market teams that are the problem.
Double Standards in the NBA
The Warrior Situation
While Denver and Jokic rarely get any attention, quite the opposite is the case for the Golden State Warriors. They are THE face of the NBA. Back to back champs, and probably on their way for a three-peat. They get national television games nearly once a week, and they have 3 of the top 10 players in the NBA when healthy. However, this is not about how good the Warriors are. This is about how the Warriors get passes for doing things that the rest of the league are not able to. Take a look at this moment during the preseason. The Warriors and the Lakers get into an altercation, and Stephen Curry very clearly goes onto the floor from the bench and is involved in the altercation. But he doesn’t get suspended. Not even a fine.
Another example is when the Warriors were playing the Nuggets on January 15th. Draymond Green, noted arguer with the officials, get called for a foul and doesn’t like the call (big surprise, right). He gets into the face of the ref and just goes ballistic. He rightfully gets called for a technical, but after the technical, he keeps going at the referee. If you can read lips, you can see he says some of the magic words that should get you ejected. But he stays in the game. A game in which he had 13 assists and played a big role in a 31 point blowout.
The NBA’s Duality
Nikola Jokic does not have a good relationship with NBA referees. He feels as if the referees don’t give him calls he deserves. Jokic often leaves games with open cuts on his arms because of defenders always clawing at him. He had a situation in a game versus the Los Angeles Clippers very similar to the Green situation. Jokic picked up a foul that he did not like, and he complained to the official. Jokic did not argue the call in an appropriate way, but he did not nearly have the reaction that Draymond Green had. Yet Jokic was thrown out of the game, on one technical. No warning, no way to redeem himself, just thrown out of the game. If you compare the reactions from Green and Jokic, Green clearly deserved to be thrown out, and Jokic did not.
That’s what the problem has been with the NBA. They have been giving their star players calls and leeway that they should not be given. Take a look at the play from LeBron James. He gets a putback dunk and then hangs on the rim for nine seconds. He even pulled himself up. Even one of those would get a normal role player a technical. LeBron gets neither. We’ve all seen the calls that James Harden gets. Certain calls he does not even get touched on. He’s a superstar, so the referees give him calls that normal players do not get. For some reason.
Why it Matters
This article is not to rip on the referees. It is not to ridicule NBA players like Harden and LeBron for being able to draw calls. It is simply to address the issue of the NBA not being consistent.
If LeBron is able to pull up on the rim and not get called for a technical. The referees should let Jamal Murray do it as well. If Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook are able to come off the bench and onto the court during a fight, let Jokic and CJ McCollum do it. If Draymond Green is able to have a minute long argument with the official after a technical, Jokic should be able to complain a little bit. The double standards need to stop. Either let everyone have leeway or let no one have it. It ruins the game when certain players are allowed to do whatever they want, and others can barely do anything. For the game’s sake, please NBA, change something.
DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 10: Tyler Lydon (20) of the Denver Nuggets, Jamal Murray (27), Nikola Jokic (15) and Torrey Craig (3) sit on the bench during the second half of the Nuggets’ 105-99 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, December 10, 2018. The Denver Nuggets hosted the Memphis Grizzlies at the Pepsi Center. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)