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Nuggets Nikola Jokic passes the ball past Rockets Alperen Şengün and Jabari Smith Jr. during the third quarter of a game at Ball Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. The Nuggets defeated the Rockets 120-100. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

Congratulations, compliments, confetti and cestitam (Serbian) to Nikola Jokic for being awarded his third NBA MVP trophy.

And, strangely enough, Jokic and the Nuggets could celebrate Christmas Day by owning the best record in the Western Conference.

No-L between now and then.

Deck the halls of The Jar arena.

Now, if the Nuggets just can get Michael Porter Jr. — who has missed 10 games with a heel injury, but had an undemanding shooting session Monday — back on the court soon and Jamal Murray continues his return to confidence they may fulfill Charles Barkley’s recent prediction.

The Joker received an early holiday present Tuesday.

The NBA announced that the league’s Most Valuable Player award would be renamed in tribute to Michael Jordan, a five-time winner (second to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s six) and selected as the NBA’s all-time premier player last season. The MVP trophy has been redesigned as a sculpture of Jordan (although it’s not like Mike) emerging from a rock.

Intriguingly, the league also stated that the first Jordan Trophy will be given, retrospectively, to Jokic for the 2021-22 honor.

The 27-year-old Serbian was bestowed with his second successive MVP trophy May 22 in a surprise ceremony with Nuggets officials outside his horse stable in his hometown of Sombor.

He will be given the new trophy, presumably in Colorado soon.

But can Nikola earn a threepeat MVP this season?

According to the latest nba.com’s “race to the MVP’’ this week, Jokic ranks fourth overall behind Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.

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Jokic is so close to averaging a triple-double per game at 23.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.1 assists. This season he has compiled four triple-doubles, including the 31 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists against the Jazz in his last game. With 16 double-doubles, Jokic has been on the verge of triple-doubles most nights. He’s shooting 68% on two-point shots and 32% from beyond the arc. He has 86 career triple-doubles, including 80 in the regular season, and surpassed Wilt Chamberlain as the No. 1 big man with triple-doubles in the history of the league. He’s sixth overall.

Only three players — Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Larry Bird — have won three consecutive NBA MVP rewards.

The Joker only will prevail again if the Nuggets finish first in the Western Conference, which is possible.

Barkley, who beat out Jordan as MVP in 1993, guaranteed recently on TNT that the Nuggets will the No. 1 seed in the West at season’s end.

In the Western Conference the Nuggets’ 16-10 record is third currently to the 18-8 Pelicans, of all birds, and the 18-9 Grizzlies, of all bears. The Nuggets have the conference’s most victories (14) and road triumphs (9) among Western teams.

In the days before Dec. 25 the Nuggets play five of six at home, and the lone away game is against the Lakers.

They could be 22-16 and first in the West, and the streak should start Wednesday night vs. the Wizards, who are 3-10 on the road. Then the Nuggets travel to Los Angeles before home games with the Hornets, the Grizzlies, the Trail Blazers and, on Christmas night, the Suns. The Nuggets have played 10 games in Denver, winning seven.

On the positive side the Nuggets are leading the league in field-goal percentage at 50.3 and second overall in three-point percentage at 39.4. The Nuggets rank 10th averaging 115 points a game.

Yet, on the negative side the Nuggets, despite the off-season acquisitions and Michael Malone’s continuous efforts, are mediocre on defense, allowing 113.8 points per game, or a 1.2 differential, and are ranked 18th.

They’ve had injury and illness issues, most particularly with MPJ, Bones Hyland and even Jokic, who missed three games.

Porter suffered another career setback with the heel problem, and his defense still hasn’t improved, but in 16 games he averaged an exceptional 42.7% from three-point range. The Nuggets obviously need him on the wing and in the starting lineup, but they’ve had other outstanding long-rangers in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (46.1%), Hyland (44.3) Vlatko Cancar (41.2), Bruce Brown (39.3) and Aaron Gordon (38.5).

And “Joker’’ Jokic proved Saturday night against the Jazz and Tuesday morning when he was awarded the Jordan Trophy that he still is an MVP and a season-changer.

Woody Paige has been a sports and general columnist in Colorado with the Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, The Colorado Springs Gazette and The Denver Gazette since 1974. He has been a commentator for the ESPN network on six different shows for 20 years. woody.paige@gazette.com

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