Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, the NBA’s reigning most valuable player, was banned for one game unpaid on Tuesday after pushing Miami’s Markieff Morris to the ground during a game Monday night.
With less than two minutes to go in a 113-96 win for the Nuggets in Denver, Morris charged at Jokic as he made a pass.
Jokic responded by giving Morris a forearm back, causing him to fall to the ground. Both players were kicked out of the game and the league assessed Morris on Tuesday with a $50,000 fine for committing a flagrant violation. The league said Jokic will serve his suspension on Wednesday, when Denver hosts the Indiana Pacers.
The incident led to a gathering of questionable players and team personnel on center court, which eventually broke up without serious incident.
Morris lay there for several minutes and a stretcher was brought out, but he left the floor on his own. The team said he had a neck injury.
“He’s moving in the dressing room now,” said Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra after the game. “We’ll do the necessary tests and do what we need to do to make sure he’s okay.”
After both players were ejected, Jimmy Butler of the Heat received a technical foul after yelling at Jokic on the bench in Denver. The league has fined Butler $30,000 “for attempting to escalate the situation and failing to comply with an NBA security interview as part of the adjudication process related to a case in court.”
“It’s a stupid move,” Jokic told reporters after the game. “I feel bad. I’m not supposed to react that way, but I have to protect myself.”
Morris could not be reached for comment after the game, but tweeted on Tuesday“I’m sure I made a big mistake, which I always do, but I’ve never hit a man with his back to him.”
“That was a very dangerous and dirty game,” Spoelstra told reporters about Jokic’s move. “That’s just absolutely inappropriate.”
Jokic had 25 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in the game for his first triple double of the season. He is in the top 20 in all three categories this season, as well as steals, and is an early candidate to repeat as MVP
Jokic has had his fair share of aggressive and over-aggressive play in his career. In Game 4 of last season’s conference semifinal against the Suns, he punched Cameron Payne in the face as he went for the ball. He was ejected and the Nuggets then lost to the Suns, who completed a four-game sweep. Jokic had 10 technical fouls last season, placing him in 11th place in the league.
The Nuggets improved to 6-4 on Monday-evening. The Heat, with Butler continuing his renaissance at the end of his career at 25 points per game, is 7-3.