Warriors Nuggets Basketball

Nikola Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists for the Denver Nuggets this season. David Zalubowski/Associated Press

DENVER — Nikola Jokic put up numbers never seen before in NBA history. Not from Wilt. Not from Kareem. Not from “Air Jordan.” Not from LeBron.

With a historic season, the Denver Nuggets big man earned his second straight Most Valuable Player award, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Monday. The NBA was preparing to make the announcement in the coming days, likely this week, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the voting results have not been announced.

ESPN, citing sources, first reported that Jokic would be named MVP again.

The 7-foot center became the first player in league history to eclipse 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season. And that sort of dominance by the player nicknamed “Joker” helped convince voters that he should be the 13th player of the NBA’s exclusive MVP back-to-back club.

The other finalists – who will finish second and third in some order – were Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, who led the league in scoring average, and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks.

The 27-year-old Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists on a team that was missing two max players in Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (back). Required to carry the load night in and out, the big man from Sombor, Serbia, answered the call and guided the Nuggets to a 48-win season. They earned the No. 6 seed in the West before losing in five games to the Golden State Warriors in the opening round of the playoffs.

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“It’s just remarkable what he’s done,” Nuggets Coach Michael Malone recently said of Jokic. “I know that I’m very biased, I admit it wholeheartedly – the MVP isn’t even a competition. There’s other great players, I’m not saying they’re not great players, but what Nikola Jokic has done this year, with this team, with everything that we’ve had to go through, is incredible.”

The award is likely the start of a huge offseason for Jokic, who is eligible for a supermax extension that could guarantee him nearly $254 million over five seasons starting with 2023-24. He’ll make $32.4 million next season.

“There’s nothing more important” than keeping Jokic, Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly recently said.

Jokic joins rarefied company in winning for a second straight season. The other players to win two in a row include Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, LeBron James (twice), Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Moses Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (twice). Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell each won the award in three straight seasons.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Monty Williams has won NBA Coach of the Year after leading the Phoenix Suns to a franchise-record 64 wins during the regular season, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.

Phoenix All-Star guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker both posted on social media that Williams had won the award, even though no official announcement has been made.

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The Suns were the NBA’s best team by far during the regular season, finishing with eight more wins than any other team in the NBA. The 50-year-old Williams has been the Suns’ coach for three seasons and the team has improved in each of them.

WARRIORS: Coach Steve Kerr tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday evening and will be replaced by associate head coach Mike Brown on the bench for Golden State in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Kerr, 56, had been regularly wearing a mask at team headquarters in recent days.

MAVERICKS: The team said is is aware of an incident between a fan and the family of Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns during Sunday’s Western Conference semifinal round playoff game at American Airlines Center.

ESPN reported that members of Paul’s family had been harassed by fans and that some in the crowd made physical contact with them.

“It was unacceptable behavior and will not be tolerated,” the Mavericks said in a statement. “The Mavericks, along with American Airlines Center, swiftly removed the fan from today’s game.”

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After the game, Paul tweeted: “Wanna fine players for saying stuff to the fans but the fans can put they hands on our families,” He also added an expletive.

Immediately after the game, it was unclear what Paul was addressing when he sent the tweet about a player’s family being accosted by fans. He wasn’t asked about it by reporters after the game.

On Sunday, the Mavericks beat the Suns 111-101 and evened the best-of-seven series 2-2. Paul fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.

KINGS: Sacramento officially announced the hiring of Mike Brown as its new head coach with hopes he can end the NBA’s longest playoff drought ever.

General Manager Monte McNair said that Brown was picked to replace interim coach Alvin Gentry. The Kings fired Gentry after a season during which they set an NBA record by missing the playoffs for a 16th straight year.

Brown currently is an assistant with Golden State and will remain with the Warriors for the rest of their playoff run. Brown previously had two stints as head coach in Cleveland, where he guided the Cavaliers to the NBA finals in 2007, and had one stint as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

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NETS: Guard Seth Curry had arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

The Nets said the procedure was done by Dr. Martin O’Malley at the Hospital for Special Surgery and was successful.

Curry came to the Nets along with Ben Simmons and Andre Drummond in February in the trade that sent James Harden to Philadelphia.

OBIT: Adreian Payne, a former Michigan State basketball standout and NBA player, has died in a shooting. He was 31.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to a shooting at 1:34 a.m. Monday when Payne was identified and taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Lawrence Dority, 29, was present at the scene, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested on a first-degree murder warrant after homicide detectives interviewed him.

Payne played in 107 NBA games, averaging four points and three rebounds, over four seasons with Atlanta, Minnesota and Orlando. The Hawks drafted him No. 15 overall in 2014, traded him to the Timberwolves, and he averaged 6.7 points and 5.1 rebounds as a potentially promising rookie.


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