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Nikola Jokic has never been good at dealing with officials. He has never averaged more than 6.3 free-throw attempts per game, despite being a two-time MVP center. For comparison, Joel Embiid, an MVP at his position, averages nearly double that. His career-high is 11.8 and he's sitting at 11.6 so far this season. Jokic's treatment from officials has vexed the Nuggets for years, and it's manifesting more and more frequently.

Less than a month ago, on Nov. 20 against the Detroit Pistons, both Jokic and Nuggets coach Michael Malone were ejected for complaining to officials. In total, Jokic has now been ejected nine times in his career. Many have been related to his frustrations. On Tuesday against the Chicago Bulls, it happened again. Late in the second quarter, Jokic believed he got fouled on a layup attempt, but no whistle came. He complained to the officials. 

They threw him out of the game, even though he hadn't yet picked up a technical foul. According to The Athletic's Darnell Mayberry, the word that got Jokic ejected was "motherf---er."

Here's where things start to get a bit unusual. Listen to the fans in Chicago -- which has a robust Serbian-American population -- as Jokic exits the court. They're booing, and it's not hard to see why. They paid money to watch the reigning Finals MVP. Instead, were forced to watch his backup because of a nonsensical ejection. That sort of treatment from officials is becoming all too common for Jokic. 

According to Nuggets coach Michael Malone, the official felt that the language Jokic used warranted an ejection.

"The official that tossed him, he asked me 'did you hear what he said?' and I said 'I did not,'" Malone recalled. "And I will not use the phrase that Nikola reportedly used, you know, but he just felt the language that was used warranted an ejection, a one-tech ejection. 

"Which I was very shocked at. When I heard what he said I said, 'I don't understand the problem because when I grew up that was a term of endearment in my house.' But unfortunate for Nikola, obviously he was frustrated. Felt like he got fouled on that last post up. And they decided to toss him. But obviously we need Nikola out there. He's a great player, but with him out, with Jamal out, everyone else stepped up."

Referee crew chief Mark Lindsay told a pool reporter that Jokic's "language reached the standard for an ejection" even without a warning or prior technical foul.

The Nuggets wound up beating the Pistons the last time Jokic was ejected, and they were able to hold on against the Bulls on Tuesday for a 114-106 win. As much as their bench has struggled, they can survive his absence against teams at the bottom of the standings. But if Jokic can't figure out how to draw calls and coexist with officials in big games, the Nuggets will have major problems down the line.