PHOENIX SUNS

Nikola Jokic fined, not suspended for pushing Suns owner Mat Ishbia

May 8, 2023, 2:12 PM | Updated: 2:30 pm

Nikola Jokic, Mat Ishbia, suspension, fine...

Nikola Jokic (15) of the Denver Nuggets reacts after a slight tussle involving Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia during the second quarter at Footprint Center in Phoenix on Sunday, May 7, 2023. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty)

(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty)

Nikola Jokic will not be suspended but will pay $25,000 in fines for shoving Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia in the Denver Nuggets’ Game 4 loss Sunday night.

The NBA said the fine was for “improper contact with a spectator sitting courtside.”

Initially handed an unsportsmanlike technical foul, Jokic attempted to take a dead ball out of Ishbia’s hands to trigger a break with Suns wing Josh Okogie landing in the front row of the stands. Ishbia and other fans made contact with the Nuggets star, who with a slight forearm shove pushed Ishbia.

The Suns owner — with a bit of apparent embellishment — fell back into his seat from a standing position.

The situation set social media ablaze and overshadowed the Western Conference semifinals game in which the Suns won, 129-124. One of the topics up for debate was whether it was a flop by Ishbia, a former walk-on basketball player at Michigan State, or excessive contact from Jokic.

Jokic said afterward he felt like he was contacted by a fan first and put the onus on the NBA to protect players, as well as fans.

“The fan put the hand on me first,” Jokic explained. “I thought the league was supposed to protect us. Maybe I am wrong. I know who he is, but he is a fan. Isn’t he?”

Under the “player conduct” portion of the NBA rulebook, it’s an automatic ejection for “deliberately entering the stands other than as a continuance of play.”

The rulebook makes clear that “the first row of seats is considered the beginning of the stands.”

Official Tony Brothers told a pool reporter that Jokic gave Ishbia a deliberate shove.

“I just deemed the technical foul the appropriate penalty for what happened over there,” Brothers said. “He didn’t just run over and hit a fan. There was some engagement, so I deemed the technical foul the appropriate penalty.”

Jokic finished with 53 points, tied for second-most in the playoffs by a center in NBA history.

Denver head coach Michael Malone and Jokic both shrugged off the context of the fan being their opponent’s owner.

“I don’t give a (expletive). I really don’t care,” Malone said.

Added Jokic: “Whoever it is, he’s a fan. He cannot influence the game by holding the ball.”

Ishbia via Twitter on Monday morning said he wanted to move on without any fine or suspension.

“Great win for the Suns last night in an amazing series so far!” he wrote. “That should be and is the only story. Suspending or fining anyone over last (night’s) incident would not be right. I have (a lot) of respect for Jokic and don’t want to see anything like that. Excited for game 5! Go Suns!”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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