The NBA has fined Nikola Jokic $25,000 but will not suspend him over his courtside brawl with Phoenix Suns owner Matt Ishbia.
NBA announces fine on Monday for “improper contact with a spectator sitting court”.
The incident occurred during the second quarter of Sunday's Game 4 between the Suns and Denver Nuggets, which Phoenix won 129-124. Jokic went to the seats of the court to retrieve a loose ball that had bounced out of bounds. Ishabia had grabbed the ball and held onto it as Jokic tried to take it from him.
Jokic left the ball loose, then shoved a standing Eshbia with his forearm as Eshbia touched Jokic's lower back with his right hand. Ishbia staggered back to his seat and his arms began to flutter.
Another angle shows Jokic and Ishbia making eye contact before pushing. It also shows former detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas – a guest of Ishbia's – grabbing Jokic's jersey after being pushed. A third unidentified man in a black shirt places his right hand on Jokic's left hand.
The scramble ended as another fan who picked up the ball threw it forward to Josh Okogie, who fell into the seats as he chased it out of bounds. Officials stopped play to review the incident, and Jokic was assessed a technical foul, but was not ejected. Security escorted the fan in the black shirt out of the arena, but Ishbia and Thomas were allowed to remain in their seats.
Jokic scored a career-playoff-high 53 points in the game, but Phoenix earned a 5-point victory to tie the Western Conference Semifinal series 2–2. The series heads back to Denver on Tuesday for a crucial Game 5 that will put the loser on the brink of elimination.
After the game, referee Tony Brothers explained the decision to assess Jokic a technical foul, but did not eject him.
“I consider the technical fault a fair penalty for what happened there,” The brothers told a pool reporter, “He didn't just run into a fan. There was some involvement, so I deemed the technical foul a fair penalty.”
Meanwhile, Jokic scoffed at the idea that he could face further discipline from the league for entering the courtside seats and pushing Ishbia. Without naming Isbia, Jokic argued that the Suns' owner attempted to influence the game. He also said that Ishbia was offensive and that the league failed to protect him in scrimmages as a player.
“He's a fan, isn't he?” Jokic said. “He's sitting on the court, so he's a fan, isn't he?
“He's got his hands on me. So they're not going to protect me? They're going to protect the fan? I'm not talking as a person, but I'm talking as a player. I mean, whatever they do Can, sure. He doesn't care. I think he should protect the players. … I think if he's affecting the game he should be thrown out.”
On Monday, Isbia issued a statement that suspending Jokic or fining anyone “would not be right.”
“Great win for the Suns last night in an amazing series so far!” reads Ishbia's statement. “It should happen and that's the only story. It wouldn't be right to suspend or fine someone over last night's incident. I have a lot of respect for Jokic and I don't want to see anything like that happen. For Game 5 Excited! Go Sons!”
Ishbia is the NBA's newest owner, taking control of the team earlier this season after former owner Robert Sarver was pressured to sell following a workplace misconduct scandal. Two-time league mvp Jokic is averaging 29.3 points, 12.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists while shooting 52.8% and 47.2% from 3-point distance this postseason. Each team is seeking its first NBA championship.