After playing a full 2022-23 season that extended into June, Nikola Jokić will reportedly sit out international competition this summer.

The report comes from Dejan Stanković of Mozzart Sport, a respected Bosnian publication. Stanković shares that Jokić recently made the decision to sit out the 2023 FIBA World Cup, an important international competition for several countries and one that Serbians were especially looking forward to seeing Jokić participate in.

Via Google Translate from the article linked here:

Nikola Jokić will definitely not be a part of the Serbian basketball team at the upcoming Mundobasket, Mozzart Sport learns.

From the day he lifted the NBA championship trophy, there were announcements that perhaps the best center in the world would not play for Serbia at the World Championship. There was a possibility that things could change, that is that Jokić, in agreement with the coach Pešić, would get an extended rest. In the end, however, there was no turnaround. Jokić informed coach Pešić and people from the Association that he will definitely not play in Mundobasket.

Stanković reported that Jokić was considering playing but ultimately decided that the mental toll it would take was too much, perhaps more so than the physical toll. The new Serbia team captain, Bogdan Bogdanović, recently reached out to Jokić to try and change Jokić’s mind. It wasn’t meant to be though, and Jokić informed Serbian head coach Svetislav Pešić that he wouldn’t be playing in the FIBA World Cup this summer. The competition extends from August 25th to September 10th and would likely mean an additional few weeks of practices beginning in the next few days.

Jokić and the Denver Nuggets won the 2023 NBA championship on June 12th, a long season for Jokić that culminated in one of the most impressive individual three-year runs in NBA history. Since the pandemic hit in March of 2020, Jokić has played perhaps the most high level basketball of anyone in the world:

  • 2020 Western Conference Finals bubble run (27 games)
  • 2020-21 MVP season culminating in second round exit (82 games)
  • 2021-22 MVP season culminating in first round exit (79 games)
  • FIBA World Cup qualifiers (2 games)
  • EuroBasket 2022 (6 games)
  • 2022-23 MVP caliber season that featured Jokić winning a championship and Finals MVP (89 games)

Today, July 24th, marks exactly six weeks since the Nuggets played Game 5 against the Miami Heat and won a championship that night. Even though a lot has happened in and around the basketball world since then, there just hasn’t been a lot of off time for Jokić and the Nuggets.

All in all, Jokić has played 285 sanctioned games in the last three calendar years, not counting any preseason or exhibition games he has taken part in during that stretch. It’s a lot of basketball to be played, and Jokić is exhausted both physically and mentally. He probably could have played in the World Cup, but to do so would add another obligation to his plate.

Serbia is often one of the strongest basketball teams in international events due to a roster rich with talent and a style of play that maximizes everyone; however, the talent gap with the rest of the world is often too large without Jokić as a part of the proceedings. Jokić helped Serbia to a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, including a near upset of Team USA in the group stage that saw Jokić dominate against DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, and Draymond Green.

Unfortunately, Jokić has only played in two international competitions since the 2016 Olympics, the 2019 FIBA World Cup, and EuroBasket in 2022. Both finishes without a medal were disappointments for Serbia, a decidedly unfortunate run for a team with so much NBA caliber talent. During both years, the Serbians dominated group play but were upset by Argentina and Italy in each year during elimination rounds.

Fast forward and Jokić has won two MVP trophies and a championship at the NBA level. With Jokić representing his country as well as he has at the NBA level, many Serbian basketball fans have adopted Jokić and the Nuggets as their chosen NBA team and have basked in the success that the Nuggets have had lately. It’s not the same as seeing Jokić dominate for the national team though, and while there aren’t any direct conflicts between domestic and international competition, it’s impossible for one player to give 100% effort and focus to both situations.

It’s disappointing to not see Jokić play but completely understandable given the workload, especially if he has designs on playing in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Skipping the 2023 World Cup makes even more sense if it affords Jokić the opportunity to play on the Serbian Olympic team. If the Nuggets make another deep playoff on the NBA Side of things though, another conflict could certainly happen, putting Jokić in yet another predicament next summer.

Jokić will cross that bridge when he comes to it though. For now, it’s important for the Serbian superstar to recover as best he can during the time that he has. How Jokić uses that time is up to him and nobody else.