It took longer than the Denver Nuggets were expecting, but All-Star center Nikola Jokic cleared quarantine and joined his team to watch Tuesday night’s practice in Orlando, Florida.
Jokic still has to undergo physical testing by the Nuggets before he is cleared to practice. But while talking to reporters for the first time since the season came to a halt in March, the Nuggets’ franchise player was in a light-hearted mood, clearly excited to be in Orlando.
Jokic had to go through quarantines in Serbia and the United States, had multiple tests to produce negative results and endured travel issues after testing positive for coronavirus while he was in Serbia.
Jokic said the positive test came as a surprise, since he was feeling asymptomatic at the time, in late June, when he tested prior to when he was scheduled to fly back to Denver.
“It was kind of weird, because I was feeling good,” Jokic said of the test result. “I was feeling normal. And when they said [the positive result], I was a little surprised because I had [a] normal-day routine, a workout and everything, and they called me and they said that I am positive.
“Then, I called everybody and they said it’s fine, they said your health is the most important thing, which is right.”
Jokic did not fly with the Nuggets on their team flight to Orlando because of travel issues. Once at the Walt Disney World Resort, players have to quarantine for up to 48 hours and test negative two more times if they fly privately to Orlando, per NBA mandate. If a player flies commercially to Orlando, he must have three consecutive negative tests before resuming basketball activities.
“It was great to see him,” Denver head coach Michael Malone said. “And I could kind of sense the relief of him being here finally, getting here and kind of going through all the different things, requirements, protocols, procedures, whatever you want to call it, to get here.
“So thankful that he’s here, he’s in great spirits. I think I can speak for everybody on our staff and our roster, having him around is just very uplifting.”
The Nuggets remain short-handed as Malone said the team is awaiting two negative tests on some members of the team travel list who did not accompany the team to Orlando.
“I’m not sure when we’re going to have our full complement of players, I really don’t,” said Malone, who would not say which players are not in Orlando.
But the Nuggets have their biggest piece with them. Jokic raised eyebrows during the NBA hiatus when photos of his leaner physique went viral. He said he is in the same shape — give or a take three to five pounds — that he was in when the Nuggets last played, on March 11.
Jokic — who averaged 25.1 points, 13.0 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1.1 steals in the playoffs last season to help the Nuggets fall one win short of making the Western Conference finals — said he is not allowed to reveal his current playing weight due to team policy.
Last year during his breakout postseason, Jokic said he preferred his playing weight at about 275-280 pounds so that he can bang inside against big centers.
“Uh, yeah, I needed to say that because what you want me to say?” Jokic joked about his preferred playing weight. “It’s an excuse for the weight, but… I’m joking.”
Opponents might not be laughing if a leaner and lighter frame means a more potent Jokic. Jokic is averaging 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.2. steals for the third-place Nuggets (43-22).
“What I am going to do?” Jokic said of what he’s capable of at a leaner weight entering his second postseason. “I don’t know to be honest. I am just happy to be here, to finally come to Orlando to be with the team.
“Maybe I’m going to surprise everybody. Maybe I am not going to do good. So, we will see.”