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#pounditWednesday, November 29, 2023

Ex-Nuggets teammate predicts early retirement by Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic with a ball in hand

May 16, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers during game one of the Western Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball fans may have to enjoy Nikola Jokic while he lasts.

Veteran NBA guard Austin Rivers appeared this week on “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” When the topic of Jokic, Rivers’ former teammate on the Denver Nuggets, arose, Rivers made an interesting prediction — that Jokic will retire from the NBA early.

“I have him playing for another five, six years,” said Rivers of Jokic. “I have him playing until like 34, 35 … I don’t wanna say anything more than that because I don’t wanna put his [business out there]. I don’t see him playing in the NBA until he’s 39. No way.

“I don’t think he really gives a s–t about American pop culture and trends and fame and relevance,” Rivers added. “Those things don’t interest him, like, really deeply to a core. The things that do interest him aren’t those things. I don’t see him hanging around.”

You can watch the full clip below (but beware of some bad language).

The 28-year-old Jokic, a native of Serbia, has the type of ground-bound, fundamentals-based game with the potential to age extremely well. But as the reigning NBA Finals MVP and a two-time league MVP who has already secured a $275 million supermax from the Nuggets that takes him through 2028, Jokic’s motivation might begin to wane from here.

While Jokic obviously excels as an NBA player, it is clear that he treats it more like a job than as a passion. Even when Denver won the title, Jokic’s post-game interview sounded more like relief that the season was over than exuberance. Now Rivers, who played with Jokic in Denver for two seasons from 2021-22, is predicting that Big Honey walks away from the game early.

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