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Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic a ‘reincarnation of Larry Bird’ and Moses Malone, says Gregg Popovich


San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had high praise for Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic after the Nuggets defeated the Spurs 132-126 on Wednesday.

Popovich said Jokic is a “reincarnation of Larry Bird” and also likened him to Hall of Fame big man Moses Malone.

Nikola Jokic is a traditional big in terms of his ability to score on the block and rebound at a high level, but his game is anything but traditional.

“The Joker” is one of the best passing bigs in generations, and his distribution skills were on full display Wednesday afternoon. Jokic finished the contest with 11 assists, and he also scored 25 points while shooting 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Bird and Jokic certainly have their differences. For starters, Bird played small forward, while Jokic holds down Denver’s center spot. At first glance, Malone seems like a better comparison given his ability to impose his will in the low post.

But Bird and Jokic are similar in their ability to stuff stat sheets and impact every facet of the game. Bird averaged 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists for his career. Jokic is currently averaging 20.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists.

Popvich’s comparison goes beyond the numbers. Bird was renowned for his sensational instincts and ability to manufacture points seemingly from nothing. Likewise, Jokic boasts some of the most impressive court vision in the NBA, and he always seems to know where his teammates are on the floor.

Of course, it is unlikely Jokic will ever be held in the same esteem as Larry Bird. That said, Popovich’s comparison is not totally unfounded.

The Nuggets are now 2-1 in the seeding games, and Denver will hope Jokic can channel more of his inner-Bird on Thursday against the Portland Trail Blazers.