Gregg Popovich: Nuggets Star Jokic Is 'Reincarnation' of Larry Bird


San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich had lofty praise for an opposing player after he put on a clinic against Popovich's Spurs team on Wednesday night.

Denver Nuggets all-world center Nikola Jokic went off for 25 points -- including three triples -- 11 assists, four boards and a steal across 32 minutes in Denver's 132-126 win over San Antonio.

The 25 points coupled with 11 dimes made for a somewhat unusual double-double for a modern NBA big man, who tend to finish more than they facilitate.

But Jokic is not your typical player, and Popovich is all too aware of it.

After the game, Pop even said he sees shades of a pair of Basketball Hall of Famers in Jokic.

"Jokic, he's like a reincarnation of Larry Bird," Popovich said. "He does everything. He's amazing. They were great."

The veteran coach, now in his 24th year at the helm for the Spurs, said Jokic presented a unique challenge for his younger roster, ESPN reported.

"They've never seen anything like that," Popovich said. "He's stepping out and making threes. He's rebounding the ball -- there should be an NBA rule, you can't tap it to yourself. He's Moses Malone. You know, he's down there and he jumps about a quarter of an inch, then he taps it two or three times and then he gets it and he lays it back in.

"It's not just luck. He does it all the time. He is great on the board, he's obviously maybe the best big man passer in the league. If not, then close to it. He's a pretty special player."

The gaudy assist total marked the 18th such time Jokic had reached double figures in that statistic in 2019-20. He also has 13 triple-doubles on the season, and 41 for his career, including one he notched in the Nuggets' second game of the restart, an overtime win over the Thunder.

The Nuggets were in need of Jokic's playmaking abilities as a ballhandler owing to the absence of backcourt regulars Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton. They've even worked 7'2" small forward Bol Bol into the rotation.

Meanwhile Jokic's teammate Michael Porter Jr. continued his scorching-hot play in the NBA bubble, tallying 30 points and 15 rebounds in his first game since erupting for a career-high 37 points on Monday.