Adam Mares & Harrison Wind (DNVR) Q&A Interview Part 2 - Serbian basketball, Nikola Jokić, Tim Connelly&coach Malone and 2022-23 Denver Nuggets

This is the second part of my two-part interview with the DNVR crew. In this one, we talked about the why sports are so important in Serbia, Jokić's backlash, Miško Ražnatović, Tim Connelly being 'one of the guys' and Nuggets winning the chip in 2023!

Adam Mares & Harrison Wind (DNVR) Q&A Interview Part 2 - Serbian basketball, Nikola Jokić, Tim Connelly&coach Malone and 2022-23 Denver Nuggets

This is the second part of my two-part interview with the DNVR crew. In this one, we talked about the why sports are so important in Serbia, Jokić's backlash, Miško Ražnatović, Tim Connelly being 'one of the guys' and Nuggets winning the chip in 2023!


Photo: Marko Milenković/Instagram

We're continuing.

Q: How would you describe your knowledge of Serbian/Yugoslavian basketball before this trip?

Adam: ”A two! I was shocked so I had to ask what did he know. ”The key players of the modern era - Vlade Divac,Peja, Yugoslavia generaly having a lot of good players. You know, Popovich, because of his relationship with some of the coaches. Btw, I would say now my knowledge is like a five.”

Q: What would you point out out of the things you learned about our basketball and the basketball culture over here?

Harrison: ”I knew just from covering Jokic, that Serbians are very proud of their basketball history but I didn't know they were this proud. You know, you just talk to some random fan at the meet-up and he's talking about these legendary coaches from the 90s, and 80s and the 70s and these grandfathers of Serbian basketball.” When I mentioned there are four of them Harrison, through laughter, told me no to ask him to name them. ”Basketball here runs very deep. Everybody feels it.”

Monument to the Four Pillars of Serbian/YugoslavianBasketball in Kalemegdan Park
Photo: Kalle Sorbo/DNVR

Q: Why do you think that we have that kind of connection with our national team, with our players and our sports in general? Why do you think that the culture is like that, and it's something completely different from the US?

Adam: ”Well, number one is because you’re good at it. We connect to the things that we’re good at. One of the things that’s interesting about sports is when I said that art is the best way to connect people and sports is number two. At its best, sports touches art. It involves art. And I think, that for Serbia in particular, and maybe more so…for example, people that are from New York love New York basketball because they’re like 'It’s our style of basketball.' It’s because it becomes an expression of something deeper. It's not just like ‘Oh, we have a talent here.' Its that our talent is expressing our culture in a certain way. And I think that Serbia more than any country, and I cant say this with confidence 'cause I’ve never been to Lithuania or somewhere where basketball is huge, but I think Serbia's love for basketball is an expression of its culture and philosophy.”

Q: Do you guys now (better) understand why Nikola received such a backlash for skipping the national team last year?

Adam: ”Of course. There’s no question about it. I still dont know if it's fair but I do understand where it's coming from. I think I understand. I don’t feel it myself but I think I understand it.”

Q: You guys did podcasts/interviews with Srdjan and Miloš. How would you describe those two guys? Who would you use as an American counterpart to compare them with?

Adam: ”My opinion is that Srdjan is me, to be honest and that's why I like him so much. Serbia is very small. Serbia and Colorado are very much a like, but I just like his personality. The moment I saw him, the moment I met him - it was like seeing my Serbian self.” This was followed by a big laugh from the fellas. ”Miloš was an incredible storyteller.” Ryan then chimed in and commented that Miloš seems like a beat writer. ”He has that kind of energy. He's more rigid than Bill Simmons to me. Bill Simmons just throws stuff at the wall. He doesn't care. I imagine he’s a hard person to convinced about new ideas. That’s my first impression.” Our buddy Ryan then 'hammered' Adam with the following remark ”So Miloš is you too”, which then made each one of us almost fell from the bench.

Q: You guys did a ton of interviews in the past couple of days. Was there somebody who declined/didn’t answer but that you really wanted to interview?

Adam: ”Yeah, Vasa Micić”, to which Harrison added ”Nikola Jokić”. Come on Nikola, be a cool guy and give these boys a proper 1-on-1 interview. ”I don’t know if he saw my messages. I tried to get in touch with him, but I didnt wanna press to hard. To be honest, I don’t know if I should say this, because I don’t wanna hold it against him but even Nenad Krstić know, he got very busy. We were supposed to meet, but he couldn’t because he was busy. I understand it. Like we’re texting yesterday and he was like 'Sorry it didn’t work out.' I was like 'No problem man'. It happens. What I would say, to pull up everything that I wanted, I would need another week. In a week, I could’ve probably done 10 more interviews and what we did would’ve been 10 times as good.”

Q: What about Miško's interview? He’s quite a personality. He’s a very big name in European basketball.

Adam: ”You know what’s funny about that - Miloš and Miško had a similar presence to me.” I definitely did not expect to hear that. Ryan then added ”Different dress code thouth” which made us all laugh. ”Because Miško, when we walked in, he was setup for an interview, like he designed it for himself. Presentation is on top of his mind so when you walk in he’s prepared. His PR is over the roof. Miloš, when he walked in, he started the interview. ”Harrison couldn't stop laughing. - Yeah, a lot of laughter during this interview. ”Because Miloš is like - before we sit down, the interview has begun. The service has begun before church even arrived. But I loved it.”

Q: Let’s talk some Nikola Jokic and Denver Nuggets basketball. What did you know about him on that draft day?

Adam: ”Literally nothing. It didn’t have anything to do with him. It was just that the level of interest wasn’t there. At that time I don’t think that I was even covering the league, so I wasn’t looking up draft prospects, especially second rounders.” 

Harrison: ”Same.”

Q: What about next year, when he came over and signed for the team?

Adam: ”So, when he came over, I don’t think you know this. But this was one of my big claim to fames that propelled me to…and I’m serious about it. I’m still kinda living off of it in some ways. When he came to the Summer League, Mudiay was a big name. I was not even a writer at the time, i was just writing for fun, like a hobby.” With a  grim on my face I asked ”You can actually get a credential for the Summer League, just like that?". Adam smiled and said the following (btw, look away die-hard Nuggets fans) - ”The Nuggers were so bad that nobody was even covering them. So you asked ”Could you do it at that time?” Most places no. In Denver, nobody was covering him, so yeah. I was lucky in so many ways. All of us were to be honest. And throughout the Summer League I was like this guy is good. Everyone should pay attention to him. He's pretty special. Look at all these things that he’s doing. They’re not normal things. Before he even played his first game, I wrote an article ‘All aboard the Nikola Jokić bandwagon’ where I said ‘Look, this is the guy who has star potential.” Btw, click that link and read Adam's prophecy.

Q: When did you realize he’s not like the other kids? He might me a All-Star caliber player?

Adam: ”December 15th, 2016. Honest to God. Jokmass! We celebrate it now. We talked about it, turning it into Slava. I have to learn all the traditions. We’ll make a whole thing man. We’ll make a whole Slava out of it. But, on that day, they played Portland, and he was great. And you’re kinda like ‘What would he look like if you just fully gave him the keys?'. And that game he kinda just took those keys and it was like a freakin' Harlem Globetrotters. It was the game when he had that pass to Faried.” Ryan chimed in with ”OMG. I was sitting on the court shooting. I was like 'Who is this guy?”

Harrison: ”It was just one of those games where you’re just watching him…and now this happens every game, but it was the first one where you’re just in disbelief. You’re like ‘Wow! OMG! and now’s like every game.”

Q: Harrison, as a beat reporter, you spent a lot of time with the team, with him. What would you say is the best thing, and what would you say is the worst thing about him?

Harrison: ”The best thing…um, there’re so many things. It’s probably just how selfless he is. And how he has all the pressure on himself, and he wants all the pressure on himself and he wants the responsibility…but he’s totally selfless, he just wants what’s best for the team. He just wants to win. He doesn’t care about individual stats, he doesn’t care about winning the MVP, he just wants to win basketball games and he want’s to do it playing the right way. He’s unlike simply any superstar.

The things I don’t like…while Harrison was trying to come up with an answer Ryan said that he should give them an interview. Yeah, if he gave us an interview, that’d be cool. Um, ok…we’ve been saying this for years - he loses his cool way to easily. That’s the one thing i can think of.”

Q: Adam has told me last night that you guys still haven’t done a classic ESPN 1-on-1 sit-down interview with him. Do you think that this trip and everything else that you guys are doing for him, for the Nuggets, for his country right now - do you think that his people are maybe gonna reach out? What do you expect, honestly?

Harrison: ”I actually don’t know. I’d think they’d be appreciative that we’ve come here and we’ve engraved ourselves in the city and its culture, but I don’t know. I don’t know if they’re gonna reach out or not. I hope they would.”

Q: How loved is he in Denver, in Colorado?

Adam: ”Well, the Nuggets aren’t so loved. They’re like second or third team. It’s a Broncos town. And then the Avalanche just won the Stanley Cup. They both have a great history and current history that’s better than the Nuggets’. So, he’s maybe a bit less popular than people would think for an average fan. But for the people that watch the Nuggets, and who are following him...he could not be loved more by the people who actually love basketball.”

Q: Would you say that he’s the biggest sports star in the state?

Adam: ”Nah. Not even close.” 'Is it Russell Wilson?' - I aksed. ”Yeah, Russell Wilson by a mile. Russell Wilson by 20 times.” But what about solely based on sporting merit, not in terms of superstardom? ”Well, what’s interesting is that Colorado Avalanche have two players who are maybe the two best players in hockey, so…it’s weird because I still think it's Jokić. Personally, I think it's Jokic. But I also think you can make the case for Cale Makar. In hockey, one of them won Best Defensive Player in all of hockey, and btw he won the MVP of the Finals, and he has a Stanley Cup. And he’s like 23. He’s unbelievable. Colorado has like three of the best athletes in their respective sports.”

Q: Do you think he’s the best player in Nuggets history?

Adam: ”I don’t think he is. I KNOW he is.”

Harrison: ”Nuggets history? Yeah, for sure. It’s not even debatable.”

Q: Talk to me a little bit about Denver and Colorado? How would you describe the city and the state?

Adam: ”One word - CHILL. And I love it. First of all, Colorado is a gorgeus state. It has the mountains that run from north to south. And then the state is chill and people…we’re the first to have weed. We have the most micro breweries in the country. We actually have legalized mushrooms. We legalized gay marriage.” So a super proggresive state - I added. This is actually how I’d describe it. The spirit of the west was born from people leaving the east and going west, not knowing where it ended. Just going…you know, Westward expansion and I’m gonna go out there and there’s no rules. You look for gold or whatever. And now we’re like 150 years later and that spirit is still out there. You go away from this East to get to the place where it’s more chill and can kinda make it your own.”

Here's a short vacation travel quide of Denver. Check it out. I honestly can't wait to visit, if i ever do.

Q: How would you describe Nuggets as a franchise?

With a lot of pain on his face Ryan just shrugged his shoulders. 

Adam: ”Irrelevant and disjointed.” Why disjointed - I aksed him. ”Because they had a lot of different owners, they had different eras, and those eras don’t connect to each other. They’re like - Good era. Dead. Nobody from that team is ever heard from again. Good era. Dead. Nobody from that team is ever heard from again. And so on.”

Harrison: ”And that happened with these last two good eras. Because, pre-Carmelo Anthony, some of the worst years in Nuggets history. Then you have the Carmelo Anthony era. And then you had a little pause after that. But then, just before the Jokić era - two of the worst seasons in Nuggets history. ”

Adam: ”The Nuggets are like the Knicks. They’re just in Denver so nobody cares about them.” - As a NY Knicks fan, that hurt me. ”But I honestly think the Kroenke's are different. It’s taking them a lot of time to get the footing. They have their own problems. But I think that they’re the owners for good, like I don’t think they’re going anywhere and they at least have a direction.”

After we disscused what was happening in the bubble in 2020, and Nuggets recent success, I had to ask about the man who’s been responsible for that - Tim Connelly. 

Q: What do you guys think about him? What’s your relationship with him? Do you think that him leaving the franchise is gonna heavily affect the team or do you have faith and full confidence in Calvin Booth?

Adam: ”Both! Tim Connelly is a visionary. It’s funny. We talked about  Denver being the perfect place for Jokić. I think Tim Connelly was the perfect GM for Jokić because Tim Conelly is just real. Tim Conelly would fit very well over here. I mean, if Tim came over here, you’d love him as well.” I then proceeded to aks Adam how close is he to Tim. ”Um, when I told him that we’re coming here, he put us in touch with people. But more than that…I mean those stuff, anybody would do. You don’t have to know them. Tim though, I’d say is like - he’s let his guard down around us which is how I’d describe it. Tim has like a lot of trust in us.”

Harrison just shouted out: ”Tim Conelly is unlike any other GM.” In what sense, i asked. ”Because he’s just a regular guy.”

Adam: ”Tim is a GM in a way we’re journalists.” - I loved that. Harrison and Ryan both applauded that comparison. 

Harrison: ”And I don’t have to know any other GM to know that. He just comes of as one of the guys.”

So to conclude - Tim Conelly is a pretty standout guy!

Q: What about coach Malone? Do you have a similar relationship as with Tim or Calvin?

Adam: ”Not at all. Coaches are a little bit different. They’re like players. They’re more like ‘Oh, we need to have some distance’. Egos. They talk to us every night. General Manager, we don’t talk on the record every night. Malone talk to us every night. So he has to be a bit more reserved. What do i think of him? He’s a tough coach. He’s like a good general. He understand the dynamic of the NBA very well. He’s a great leader.”

Harrison: ”That’s probably his best quality - his leadership.” When asked about Malone’s worst qualities Harrison responded “I would say he has the same bad qualities as Jokić - his temper. He loses his cool way to easily.”

Q: Do you think that he’s the guy who can lead you to a championship?

Harrison: ”Absolutely. Absolutely.“

Adam: ”I believe so.“ 

Q: What are your expectations for the team in this upcoming season?

Harrison: ”To win a championship.” “Larry O’Brien babyyy”, added Ryan. ”Yeah, to win a championship.”

Adam: ”I don’t think they have the best odds but I think that it’s possible.” Who do you think is the the favorite, i asked the boys. ”Boston Celtics! I think it’s the Celtics.“, said Adam. Ryan said the Warriors to which Adam responded with ”They lost a lot of pieces. And also they had a lot of things going right for them last year. They’re good. They’re probably number two.”

Q: But what’s with the Celtics fans in Denver? Everytime I watch the Nuggets v Celtics at home, there’s a ton of Boston fans in the building?

Harrison: ”There are a lot of Celtics fans everywhere.”

Adam: ”Do you wanna know why? I told you, Colorado is beautiful. And Boston fucking sucks. So why wouldn’t you move from a place that sucks to go to a place that’s great? That puzzled me, because I always liked Boston as a city. I’ve never been there but it was definitely on my bucket list. Ryan chimed in with ”Awful place. Awful weather. Awful people. The town is a mess. Boston is just not fun.” ”It’s like cranky…I mean people love it. People take a lot of pride in being from there. They think they’re the center of the universe though. That’s why I was telling you about Denver. If you ask somebody from Boston about Denver, they might like it but they kinda look down on it. They think it’s a small town. They’d be like ‘Oh, I once had a connecting flight there. Those little guys, like whatever. They don’t matter. We’re the real big dogs.' We're like - Well fuck you! We’re a cooler city!”

Q: What do you it’d take for Nikola to win his third consecutive MVP? Does he even have the slightest chance because I think that the Nuggets have to win like 67+ games and he has to average like a triple double in order to do it?

Adam: ”No. It doesn’t have to be like that but it has to be something like that. For start, they have to be a first seed. For sure. He has to be better, both in real life and with his stats and maybe there has to be a situation where nobody else comes even close.” 

Harrison: ”It’d have to be a perfect combination of events in order for him to win it again.” 

Adam: ”But I honestly think that, it’s like you said - would it be good for him? I don’t think so. Why isn’t Serbia at their best? What’s the mindframe? You win the MVP for the third time, are you the underdog? What is everybody saying when you go into the playoffs and you win MVP three times, and you’re healthy this time? I think it’s better if you SHOULD be the MVP but they gave it to somebody else…

Q: How would the city feel if the Nuggs win it all? It wouldn’t be as big as the Broncos winning it?

Harrison: ”No. No.”  Ryan then said that he thinks that it’d be even less then the Avs winning the Stanley Cup to which Adam responded: ”I don’t. I don’t. The momentum would build up during the playoffs. I think it’d be more-less equal for the city of Denver. It also depends on how the Avs are gonna be doing next year. There could be a fatigue of winning championships in Denver.” - Oh, that sure sucks Adam. Poor Denver. “The thing is that the Avs could win it first and then the Nuggets one would be like 2-3 weeks later and people would be like ‘Hurray, but we just one another one two weeks ago.' ”I’d say the 500-600 thousand people would go to a parade. ”

You heard it people! If the Nuggets win the chip next year, we're expecting those numbers! So - LET'S GO NUGGETS!

Denver Nuggets' Big Three - MPJ, Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray
Photo: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Marko Milenković



Evrobasket Specijal - Izrael v Srbija (Adriatik Podkast)

Evrobasket Specijal: Srbija - Finska (Adriatik Podkast)