Nikola Jovic’s rough start to the season for the Miami Heat got a bit more difficult after comments to a Serbian outlet about his role surfaced this weekend.
His interview was translated into English and made the rounds on social media.
“It’s not easy, it’s really not easy,” he said. “It’s even harder for me than last year. I mean, I kind of feel like I can play and I deserve it. They think I’m not ready yet and I totally understand. There is nothing there. I don’t know where this is going, and all I’m trying to do is be on the field as much as possible. Somehow, even when I’m playing, I feel like maybe I’m being misused. I hope that some things will change, I will continue to work…I really support everything they do for me and it will get better for sure.”
He saw some minutes at center in his most recent game with the Heat.
“More on the defensive game,” said Jovic of playing at center. “Everything I’m good at, they don’t seem to use, and what I’m worse at, they seem to force it. Those things make me not feel the best on the pitch. What do I know, it will get better.”
The youngster also opened up about some struggles he’s been dealing with.
“I know that I can play in several positions and in several ways, but they simply seem to be trying to limit me in some way,” he added. “I’m really coping and trying to make the best of this, but it’s not easy. It’s really not easy.”
He revealed he “insisted” on his recent G League stint as a way to continue developing.
“I insisted,” he said. “There is no point in sitting out the whole season after a good summer. I even like the G League, but there I play in the 5 position. Somehow, it’s like there’s no way out for me right now. I still don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m sure there will be.”
But the 20-year-old on Monday tried to diffuse the situation by explaining his comments to reporters in English.
Nikola Jovic says he was taken out of context and did not say exactly what has been spread on social media. This is in regard to his interview with a Serbian media outlet.
— Anthony Chiang (@Anthony_Chiang) November 27, 2023
Nikola Jovic just now clarified the statements made to Serbian media. Said the idea he’s being “misused” was taken out of context and the language translation didn’t help.
“I would never say anything like that.” pic.twitter.com/wYfTN8CMqP
— Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg) November 27, 2023
After the Serbian report said he felt he was being limited by his role with the Heat, Jovic maintained he understood his current status with the team.
“Things I said are totally different,” Jovic said. “I said a couple of those things in different ways.
“So I’m going to say it again in English so you guys don’t even have to translate it. Nobody’s going to make it up because you’re going to have to hear me say it.
“Basically what I said is this team is playing great without me. And minute-wise, I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. And this team’s playing great, so there’s no point of playing me right now. And I get it. I get it. I totally get it. So, that was the first thing.
“The second thing I said is I was talking about the G League. So G League, playing-wise, we don’t have a 5, so I’m playing the 5, and sometimes it’s not easy to play the things that you’re not really good at, which playing at 4, I would probably be a lot better. And that’s basically it.
“So I know you guys, they’re going to translate it. You guys are not concerned about Serbian media a lot, but they love to do that, a lot of fake rumors. You guys talk to me a lot. You know I would never say something like that. First of all, I respect everyone here. And I’ve said a million times, everything they do for me is great. I’m going to get better here. I’m going to get better with them. And that’s it. I would never disrespect anyone like that. If I ever had a problem with anyone, I would talk to them in person. I would never go in the media and say something like that.”
Jovic has played in just three NBA games this season and recently completed a brief stint in the G League. In fact, Jimmy Butler took some time to watch his young teammate play for the Sioux Fall Skyforce and spoke highly of his long-term prospects.
The star’s comments were in line with praise Jovic received from Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra in the summer. But despite that, the first-round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft (No. 27 overall) has yet to carve out a significant role with the Heat.
He appeared in 15 games last season as a rookie and averaged 5.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. He also got into seven playoff games as the Heat advanced to the 2023 NBA Finals.
This season, Miami has been without Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin because of injuries during the early going. But even in the absence of those key players, Jovic hasn’t been able to make his way into the rotation and instead has been used very sparingly. He did score 13 points combined over two brief appearances in October.
Brighter days may be ahead, however, after he played almost 17 minutes in Miami’s most recent game, a 112-97 loss at the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday that completed a back-to-back set that included a loss at the New York Knicks on Friday.
The Heat next face the Milwaukee Bucks in an NBA In-Season Tournament game at home on Tuesday. With Miami needing a victory to enhance its chances to advance to the quarterfinals, a good performance by Jovic would go a long way to putting his comments behind him very quickly.