Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Malone, Barton, Free Agents

The Nuggets’ season-ended Sunday in a sweep at the hands of the Suns, and with league MVP Nikola Jokic in the locker room after being ejected.

Jokic was frustrated with a non-call and took a swipe at Suns guard Cameron Payne in the third quarter of Game 4, resulting in a flagrant 2 and the end of Jokic’s season.

Nikola Jokic

Nuggets coach Mike Malone said he was “shocked” by the ejection over a foul that was merely based on frustration.

“I just didn’t feel like it warranted a flagrant 2 ejection because he’s making a play on the ball,” Malone said. “There’s marginal contact to Cameron Payne‘s nose I believe. So I was shocked. I’m still a little bit shocked that they called a flagrant 2 and ejected the MVP on such a play.”

Jokic also expressed surprise over the call.

“I wanted to change the rhythm of the game, I wanted to give us some energy, maybe change the whistle a little bit, so I wanted to make a hard foul,” Jokic said. “Did I hit him, did I not hit him? We don’t know. So I say sorry if I did because I did not want to injure him or hit him in the head on purpose.”

A lengthy review followed the play before Jokic got the old heave-ho.

“From my vantage point and watching the replay, I did not think it was a non-basketball play with malicious intent,” Malone said. “I think it was a frustration foul. Nikola probably felt the last couple plays when he had the ball he had not received a foul call. And he went over there to take a foul. Which he has done plenty of times. A lot of players do that.”

Even Suns coach Monty Williams agreed with Malone and Jokic, as did Trae Young and several other players, who voiced their thoughts on social media.

“I didn’t really think it was anything malicious,” Williams said. “In those moments you have to regulate your emotions. That’s what we’ve been talking about all season long.”

Regardless, the Nuggets could ever find their footing in the series, especially minus injured guard Jamal Murray, and now the offseason begins.

“The whole season was great, I think,” Jokic said. “Until the last four games.”

More from Denver

  • Nuggets guard Will Barton has been a big part of things and has a $14.7 million option on his contract this offseason. He said if he decides to opt out and enter free agency, he just wants to be someplace where he can “play my game,” via Sean Keeler of the Denver Post.
  • That said, Barton made it sound as if a return to Denver isn’t out of the question. “I definitely believe we’ve got the pieces,” he told reporters. “And if we’re healthy, I feel like we can win it. And that’s all I’ll say about that.”
  • Along with Barton, the Nuggets will have some other contract decisions to make this summer. Both Paul Millsap and Austin Rivers are unrestricted free agents, and Aaron Gordon is eligible for an extension. JaMychal Green will also be a free agent at the end of next season.
  • Also, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks wrote, how the Nuggets handle the possibility of a rookie scale extension for Michael Porter Jr. will be worth watching.

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