He wondered about himself the moment the Heat reached the NBA Finals last June. “ Am I capable of reaching this level? Am I capable of competing in the toughest competition in the world? », remembers thinking Nikola Jovic. Questions for many linked to a truncated first season in Florida.
Touched by a “ very serious » back injury at the end of December, the Heat rookie was sidelined for many months and had to make do with a few brief and rare appearances in the playoffs. Including a total of two minutes of play against the Nuggets in the final.
The World Cup which followed was therefore intended to dispel his doubts. “ It was important, my goal was to go to Serbia and help the team as much as possible. I really wanted to see where I was right now, how good I was against our guys, because I grew up watching them », testifies, in the columns of the Miami Herald, the Serb according to whom “ no one expected » that he plays so much.
Despite his young age (20), he earned his starting place in a team that managed to reach the final of the competition. With almost 24 minutes on average, he averaged 10 points (57% shooting), 3 rebounds and just under 3 assists. Averages boosted by its huge outing against South Sudan (25 points at 9/9!).
Progress behind the arc
In this match, the power forward converted his five, sometimes contested, 3-point attempts. He thinks he made the most progress in this area this summer.
« I gained confidence. I always knew I was a good shooter. I just felt like I needed confidence. The national team helped me a lot. They told me that every time I was open, I had to shoot. I really adopted this role of shooter », appreciates the interior, which finished with a very good 42% from afar (11/26).
He who had little opportunity to show his qualities during his fifteen appearances with the Heat (23% by far) hopes to show his progress during the coming season. And thus imitate Max Strus, Gabe Vincent or Duncan Robinson who all benefited, last season, from the balls brought out by Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo.
« It’s something we need, I try to think about it constantly, to be ready and confident. Because when I’m served, I know they want it to go in. »
Also boosted by the presence of his coach Erik Spoelstra in the Philippines, who sent him a message after the matches, Nikola Jovic today feels “ more ready mentally and physically ». « We always have doubts and people will doubt us. Going to the World Cup and being in the final showed me that I could really play in the big games and big tournaments like that. I gained confidence. I know I can play and that’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned about myself ».
Nikola Jovic Percentage Rebounds Season Team MJ Min Shots 3pts LF Off Def Tot Pd Fte Int Bp Ct Pts 2022-23 MIA 15 14 40.6 22.9 94.7 0.6 1.5 2.1 0.7 1.3 0.5 0.7 0.1 5.5 Total 15 14 40.6 2 2.9 94.7 0.6 1.5 2.1 0.7 1.3 0.5 0.7 0.1 5.5
How to read the stats? MJ = matches played; Min = Minutes; Shots = Successful shots / Attempted shots; 3pts = 3-points / 3-points attempted; LF = free throws made / free throws attempted; Off = offensive rebound; Def=defensive rebound; Tot = Total rebounds; Pd = assists; Fte: Personal fouls; Int = Intercepts; Bp = Lost balls; Ct: Against; Pts = Points.
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