Jokic, lumagda ng US$147M sa Nuggets

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DENVER (AP) — Magkahiwalay ang mundo nina Nikola Jokic at Will Barton. Ngunit, pareho ang landas na kanilang tinatahak sa Denver Nuggets – malaking kontrata.

Nagkasundo ang Denver Nuggets at si Jokic para sa max contract na nagkakahalaga ng US$147 milyon sa loob ng limang taon, habang nagbabalik sa koponan si Barton para sa apat na taong kontrata na nagkakahalaga ng US $50 milyon.

“He called us Kobe and Shaq,” pahayag ni Jokic sa isinagawang press conference nitong Lunes (Martes sa Manila). “We kind of grew together.”

Nagmula sa Serbia si Jokic na second-round pick ng Denver noong 2014 (41st overall). Matapos magbawas ng timbang ng 30 lbs. itinuturing ang 6-foot-10 na isa sa pinakamatikas na big men sa liga.

Native naman ng Baltimore si Barton, second-round pick ng Portland noong 2012 (40th overall) — kung saan namalagi lamang ang sharp-shooter sa bench ng Blazers bago nakuha ng Denver.

“I don’t think we are a team that can follow other archetypes in how teams are built,” pahayag ni Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly. “We have to find and develop guys. We have to find and develop guys who want to be here long term.”

Naitala ni Jokic ang 10 triple-doubles sa nakalipas na season – pinakamatikas sa kasaysayan ng prangkisa mula ng humataw si Fat Lever noong 1987-88. Tinanghal din si Jokic na ikalimang player sa kasaysayan ng NBA na nakapagtala ng 3,000 o higit pang puntos, 2,000 rebounds at 1,000 assists sa kanyang unang season, sapat para makasama sa elite group na kinabibilangan nina Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Maurice Stokes at Sidney Wicks.

“To see how quickly he’s made the jump and how comfortable he is producing against the elite of the league, it’s something I’ve never seen,” pahayag ni Connelly. “He’s one of the best players in the NBA.”