Credit: USA Today Sports – Scanpix
Credit USA Today Sports – Scanpix

In May, Nikola Jokic was named back-to-back MVP. In July, the Serbian superstar signed the biggest contract in NBA history, worth $270 million.

3-pointers this season

35%
12,6
Points made: 12,6
Accuracy: 35,3%
Place in standings: 14
Record max: 23
Record min: 4
Most made 3FGs: Will Barton

He played the best season of his career, averaging 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 7.9 assists.

But such accolades and numbers were not given as a typical day in the life of a two-time reigning NBA MVP looks something like this.

On gameday, together with his teammates, he arrives at a morning shootaround. That's the only moment during the Denver Nuggets season when the team collectively talks about plays, defense, and opponents. They walk through their game plan, do shootaround, and every player then goes on to work out individually.

After an easy shootaround, the players travel to the hotel to rest and return to the arena with 3 to 4 hours until the game starts.

Each player has his own routine and a specialized timeslot for work with an individual skills coach.

Jokic's personal coach has a total of three players at most under his watch during the season. He works with Jokic for 20 to 30 minutes.

Another player comes on the court, and then Jokic, with his personal coach, sits down to do a 15-20 minute video analysis. It might be episodes from last night's game of what the center did right and what he did wrong or a preparation for an upcoming matchup against a direct opponent on the floor.

When the Nuggets game finishes, the Serbian superstar goes to the exercise facility and works additionally, whether he played 25 minutes in a 30-point blowout win or 52 minutes in a four-overtime thriller.

The Serbian superstar does some work with resistance bands and dumbbells, wrapping it all up with some stretching.

Nikola Jokic

Nikola  Jokic
Nikola  Jokic
MIN: 33.5
PTS: 27.33 (64.23%)
REB: 13.71
As: 7.76
ST: 1.47
BL: 0.89
TO: 3.85
GM: 79

"He started this routine three years ago," Martynas Pocius, Assistant Director of Pro Personnel at Denver Nuggets, told BasketNews. "After every game, he does his work with the athletic trainers. He hasn't skipped his routine for the last three years."

"People think that it's just talent. Yes, he's a talent, but he puts in a lot of hard work. When your best player acts in this manner after each game, it's contagious," Pocius said.

When he enters the exercise facility after each NBA game, Pocius now sees half the team working additionally.

"It's become part of our culture," he tells.

Jokic and other Nuggets stars have nine individual skills coaches. According to Pocius, each club has 5-8 such specialists, some even more.

"It's now one of the most important positions in NBA teams. The entire principle of such rapid player development in the NBA is leaned on the individual work of player development coaches, not the team practices," the 36-year-old told BasketNews.

"The crazy NBA schedule is a part of this, of course, as the teams have to play either each day or every second day. You cannot place the weight of many team practices on the players. The work in practices throughout the season is based on individual player development," Pocius told.

According to the former Duke and Real Madrid player, the regular 5-on-5 practices are only being held during the offseason. Once the regular season stars, such practices become virtually extinct.

Those nine coaches, who are often not even on the bench, are then responsible for player development.

"It's still very fresh in Europe. It's a new position that's hard to grasp not only in Lithuania but in entire Europe. It's very important, though. In my opinion, we'll get to the stage when each team has at least one such coach sooner or later," Pocius explained.

"Basketball has come a far way. Earlier in the day, you could create the best shot after just several passes and screens. Now everything is based on individual skill and the ability to create the shot yourself. Teams are switching defenders more and more.

Much of the playing focus is placed on individually strong guards. There is a shortage of such players in Lithuania who could create their own shot during the last seconds of the possession after the play collapses. We can count such players on one hand's fingers. That's a huge problem, and it's only going to get worse.  

I think both Lithuania and Europe should emphasize the development of coaches and familiarize them with the development of individual skills. There aren't many such coaches in Europe, and that's a big problem. Even if they are growing somewhere, they don't know how to take the information and apply it to the player," Pocius concluded.

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