Nikola Jokic, the reigning MVP and star center for the Denver Nuggets, has announced that he will not be competing with his national team of Serbia in the Olympic Qualifying tournament, per Marc Stein.
Jokic had a grueling season; he played 2,488 total minutes this season, ranking third in the League.
Denver’s Nikola Jokic announced in his native Serbia today that he will not play for the national team in Olympic qualifying or if they earn a spot in Tokyo after two grueling NBA seasons back-to-back with little break.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 16, 2021
“To my great regret, this is the moment when I have to announce that despite my great desire, I am not able to play for the national team,” Jokic told the Tanjug News in Serbia.
“Simply, the condition of my body requires a longer absence from the field for recovery. That is the attitude and suggestion of the club and one inevitably that I have to accept. I am convinced that guys without me have the quality to make a result that will bring us all a lot of joy.”
The Serbian National Team is among the strongest in the world (featuring NBA players such as Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica), and with Jokic, would have a significant chance in placing for a medal. The Serbians won silver in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro—although Jokic was largely stifled by the American squad in the 96-66 loss, being held to six points and four rebounds.
However, apart from Jokic, two other players also announced that they will not be participating in the qualifiers: Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Aleksej Pokusevski and Golden State Warriors center Alen Smailagic.
Serbia is hosting the qualifying tournament in close to two weeks.