Denver Nuggets' coach Michael Malone coaching against the Phoenix Suns on May 7, 2023. May 7, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone reacts against the Phoenix Suns in the second half during game four of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There were many strange elements about Denver Nuggets’ center Nikola Jokić’s interaction with a member of the crowd at Phoenix’s Footprint Arena Sunday, but a key one was the identity of that crowd member. It happened to be Suns’ owner Mat Ishbia. In the second quarter of Game 4 of that series, the ball went out of play near Ishbia, who grabbed it. Jokić then ran over and grabbed the ball from Ishbia, who fell backwards rather dramatically, leading to Jokić receiving a technical foul:

Following the Suns’ 129-124 victory, which evened that second-round series at two games apiece, there was a lot of discussion about if there would be any further punishment for the league for Jokić. That includes detailed  arguments over if this counts as “entering the stands” (which has prescribed penalties) or if Ishbia was entering the court. There were also plenty of arguments on if Ishbia himself will receive NBA punishment for his actions. But one of the more interesting comments came from Denver coach Michael Malone during his post-game press conference, where he first referred to Ishbia as just “some fan,” then said “I don’t give a s***” when informed of who Ishbia was:

From the perspective of Malone and the Nuggets, this makes some sense. On the Denver side, it seems logical to emphasize Ishbia’s behavior, not what Jokić  did in response. And considering him to be just “some fan” here helps illustrate that stadium security might have reacted differently for “some fan” (indeed, they did eject one of the other fans involved afterwards) than they did for Ishbia, and that the subsequent discussion might have been less critical of Jokić if this was just “some fan.” The NBA on TNT panel also made similar points on their halftime show:

It’s interesting to ponder if Malone (seen above during this game) knew at this point this incident was with Ishbia and deliberately used “some fan” anyway, or if he did actually find out the identity of the fan at this moment. In either situation, as he said, he doesn’t particularly care.

[Awful Announcing on Twitter; photo from Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.