George Karl’s current battle with throat cancer will have some fairly profound implications. The most notable of which will likely have nothing to do with basketball at all. But that hasn’t stopped Karl from keeping his eye to a potential return to the Nuggets later this season, optimally in time for Denver’s postseason run. From Joanne C. Gerstner of the New York Times’ Off the Dribble blog:
Karl underwent surgery Monday to have a feeding tube inserted. He…is undergoing a series of 35 radiation and chemotherapy treatments, with the procedures leaving his stomach in a delicate state…Assistant coach Adrian Dantley took over Karl’s duties in against the Timberwolves. The Nuggets expect Karl to be back for Friday’s game in New Orleans. Karl understands how tough his fight will be. He overcame prostate cancer in 2005. “Cancer is a vicious opponent,” Karl said Feb. 17, during a press conference that revealed his condition. “Even the ones that are treatable, you never get a 100-percent guaranteed contract.”
Obviously these things are better left in the hands of Karl’s doctor of choice, but I will say this: if George, the Nuggets, or any of the Nuggets faithful out there expect Karl to go back to business as usual with ongoing radiation treatment, they’re sadly mistaken.
Coaching in the NBA is already an endeavor that requires endless energy and more hours than there are in a day. If that energy is sapped through medical treatment, not only will Karl be required to micromanage his staff in order to accomplish his usual tasks, but he may lose some of his passion for coaching during this particularly draining period.
That said, if you’re a believer in the power of positive thinking, then the very fact that Karl and the Nuggets are operating under the assumption that he’ll be there is a good thing. Maybe he will be, and maybe he won’t, but it can’t help to have that carrot dangling overhead.