The NBA All-Star Draft happening just before the game provided some funny moments, as Giannis Antetokounmpo got confused over who was a starter and who was a reserve, trying to draft Ja Morant before he could. However, nothing was funnier than Nikola Jokic just drafting himself to Team LeBron at the end of the starters draft, as it seemed he was not going to allow himself to be the last pick as the defending two-time MVP.
However, that was apparently not a purposeful flex on the part of Jokic, but an honest mistake in which he got confused and thought he was the last pick, sheepishly strolling up to LeBron assuming that was a formality. Nuggets coach (and Team LeBron coach) Michael Malone explained after the game that Joker didn’t realize Markkanen, who was on the far corner of the stage, was still out there, and he apologized to the Jazz All-Star forward for showing him up.
Nikola actually thought he was the last pick.
He didn’t realize Markanen was still there!
Malone explains. pic.twitter.com/UMzXYAkP1G
— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) February 20, 2023
Jokic even said afterwards that he didn’t take it as a slight, as he is “not meant for this game.”
"I would not draft myself either."
Nikola Jokic after being picked 7th from the Starters Pool tonight 🤣#NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/ZpOQfsldUE
— NBA (@NBA) February 20, 2023
This is actually even funnier than Jokic drafting himself as a refusal to be the last pick, as it’s a perfectly awkward moment for him to be involved with. Beyond that, it’s most likely that Markkanen was going to go to Team LeBron, as Draymond Green explained on the broadcast he expected James to go for the hometown pop.
"If Joker did not walk up to LeBron, Bron was definitely going for the crowd pleaser and going to pick Lauri [Markkanen]."
— Draymond Greenpic.twitter.com/GHOEwxbZe3
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 20, 2023
With this ending up as the first loss in Team LeBron history — after the Lakers star got hurt jamming his finger on the rim in the first half and didn’t return — one has to wonder if James ending up with a pair of centers in his starting lineup when he wasn’t planning on it played a role in his roster’s failure to keep it competitive with Giannis. All because Jokic didn’t look far enough to his right during the Draft.