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Nikola Jokic flunks a big test against the Lakers, raising red flags

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

With great power comes great responsibility. That’s how the saying goes, best known as “The Peter Parker Principle” because it was the mantra bestowed upon Spider-Man.

Well in the Mile High City, it could be applied to Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets center has been given a lot, namely a five-year, $147 million contract, and a lot is now expected of him.

Coming off of a season in which he was selected first-team All-NBA, the first Denver player to achieve that status since David Thompson in 1978, the sky was the limit for the big man. At just 24, he was already being considered an MVP candidate.

Through 18 games, however, this season has been a major disappointment for Jokic. His scoring is down (from 201.1 to 15.4), as are his rebounds (10.8 to 10.1) and assists (7.3 to 6.1). But numbers are only part of the story.

In large chunks of games, Jokic has looked generally disinterested. It’s to the point where Michael Malone has already had to pull him aside and talk to him about being more assertive. That’s troubling when the head coach is having one-on-one conversations in the first quarter of the season.

The Nuggets have hitched their wagon to Jokic, but not just financially. They’ve built their team to run through him, as their offense is based around his unique skill set. So when he’s not playing well, or simply not engaged, Denver’s attack bogs down.

That’s led to big deficits in games, most of which the Nuggets have overcome. And it’s resulted in a few blown leads, which finally caught up to Denver in Sacramento.

Last night, with the best team in the NBA in town, people hoped Jokic would answer the bell. Surely, he’d be ready to go against Anthony Davis, who many consider the true best big man in basketball, and the Lakers.

But that didn’t happen. On the night, Jokic put up an extremely pedestrian line of 13 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists. And he was thoroughly outplayed by Davis, who scored 25 and grabbed 10 boards.

As a result, the local media finally started to turn on the Nuggets big man. Despite their inclination to give him the benefit of the doubt, because Denver has been longing for a basketball star for so long, they couldn’t hold back anymore. It was time to call out Jokic.

Here’s just a sampling of the comments that were posted on social media after the game:

And the national media got into the act too. Last night, Jokic was on the big stage and came up woefully short.

If the Nuggets are going to be a legit contender, Jokic is going to have to be better. His teammates certainly know that.

But does Jokic know it?

That doesn’t sound like the comments from someone who is going to carry a team to a championship.