The 2023 NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat tips off on ABC on Thursday night. ESPN's Mike Breen will call the games alongside Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, with Lisa Salters rounding out the broadcast. During a media conference call on Tuesday morning, Van Gundy and Jackson talked about a number of things, including the Denver fans, disrespect and Mike Malone's complaints about the narrative.
Asked about the reaction to his leaving Nikola Jokic off his MVP ballot, Jackson downplayed the backlash in Denver where he, Breen and Van Gundy called Game 1 and Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
"I've had no issues at all," Jackson told the media over Zoom. "And I don't expect any, you know, other than, one or two fans during one of the games in the Western Conference Finals. Out of the two people, two men, one apologized on the way out, so nothing but class and, I understand the quick comments or, you know, slick comments. I’m fine with that."
Jackson's longtime partner was less forgiving. "Mark's being kind to some of those fans, they were, some of those fans were clowns at the game," said Van Gundy. "It used to be, when you say I made a mistake, it just goes away. I just, like the whole stuff about the disrespect is like, it's tiring."
Van Gundy also added that talking about the disrespect "means nothing" and it's something that all coaches have done, finishing up his thoughts on Mike Malone's recent complaints about The Narrative and how they were motivating the Nuggets.
"Their players don't need motivation," Van Gundy said. "They're playing in the NBA Finals. This is all like all these narratives about like Topgolf and, you know, disrespect. It's mind-numbing. You know with the Celtics, we're talking Topgolf instead of them making 16 and 19 threes. There's a huge difference between correlation and causation and I think sometimes with all of it, we minimize exactly what coaches are there for.
Michael Malone's job is not to motivate Nikola Jokic," Van Gundy continued. "It's to try to get the Denver Nuggets with the right habits, with the versatility that it takes to go through four playoff series, to be able to win on offense and defense, create a balanced team. That's what he's done. , it's not, you know, that somebody from ESPN innocently mentioned that Jokic was even better in person than they would be watching at home. I mean, that's just nonsense."
So don't let Mike Malone distract you by talking about all the things you've been distracted by. Jeff Van Gundy doesn't want to hear it and you'll probably end up apologizing to Mark Jackson.