It’s nearing decision time for Nuggets’ center Nikola Jokic on whether or not the big man will play for his home nation of Serbia in EuroBasket 2017, a choice that will likely be made over the next few weeks.
But Jokic, who helped lead Serbia to a silver medal in the Rio Olympics last summer, is still weighing his options. In an interview with Serbian news outlet Večernje Novosti, Jokic said he still hasn’t decided on his plans for this summer.
“We’ll see. I do not know yet,” Jokic said when posed a question about if he’ll suit up for Serbia.
Over the past couple of months, national teams are gradually starting to get commitments from NBA stars. Kristaps Porzingis announced in late April that he’ll play for Latvia this summer after not playing for his home country in each of the past two offseasons and Dennis Schroder said he’ll play for Germany at EuroBasket, which runs from Aug. 31 through Sep. 17, at an early Monday morning press conference. Sharpshooting big man Lauri Markkanen, who starred at Arizona last season, is expected to make his senior debut for Finland as well.
Jokic’s decision, which those inside the Nuggets’ organization will be watching closely, is a difficult one that the 22-year-old is likely grappling with internally.
On one hand, Jokic wants to represent his country. It’s something that’s important to the Sombor, Serbia native and the pride and joy he has for his home nation runs deep.
But Jokic has been playing basketball for essentially two years straight. Jokic came over to the NBA for his rookie season in 2015, a year after he was selected 41st overall by Denver. Then came Summer League and 73 regular season games (55 starts) during the 2015-16 season. That rookie campaign was followed by a busy summer with Serbia in Rio and 80 more games during his sophomore season.
That rigorous two-year schedule, which included an exhausting All-Star weekend in New Orleans this past February, got to Jokic.
“I’m really tired,” Jokic said after Denver’s first post-All-Star break practice last season. “My body is tired. I’m trying to get as much rest as I can. Use all of the trainers to help me. Nobody is going to feel bad for me. I’m going to go out there and play.”
The fatigue factor was noticeable from Jokic last season and the shape he’s in for training camp come September will be something that’s watched closely. A summer off would give Jokic some much-needed rest and set him up for a crucial third NBA season. But his loyalty to Serbia and love for his country will be tough to dismiss.