Report: George Karl’s status in Denver up in the air following GM’s departure to Raptors

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The Nuggets finished with the best home record in the league last season, and won 57 games which was enough to get them the three seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They ran into a Warriors team that did what they do only better, especially after Danilo Gallinari, one of Denver’s two best offensive players, was lost near the end of the regular season due to a torn ACL injury.

Still, it meant another first round loss in Denver. And despite the regular season success, it’s been the norm for a franchise which has only advanced past the first round of the playoffs once in the last 10 seasons.

There’s no question that George Karl is a great coach, and he definitely overachieved with the Nuggets a season ago. But with the departure of general manager Masai Ujiri to the Raptors, and with Karl entering the final year of his contract in Denver next season, suddenly we have an interesting situation developing regarding the Nuggets and their head coach.

From Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles:

Denver Nuggets coach George Karl’s status has become “unsettled” following the departure of general manager Masai Ujiri for the Toronto Raptors, two sources close to the situation said late Saturday night.

Karl, who was named the NBA’s coach of the year following the Nuggets’ 57-win season, is not in any imminent danger of losing his job, the sources stressed. But Ujiri’s departure, coupled with Denver’s disappointing first-round playoff exit, has shaken things up in Denver to the point that Karl, who is under contract for just one more season, could, incredibly, begin the season on the hot seat after winning the league’s top coaching honor for the first time in his long career, instead of beginning extension talks.

While the Nuggets may not have wanted to pay Ujiri the amount of money over the amount of years that the Raptors were willing to, they have to have known that there would be consequences in letting him jump.

Karl is no stranger to the coaching game, having been doing it for the past 25 years, and he’s been the head man in Denver for the last nine. But should the uncertainty there reach an extremely high level, Karl may wish to explore other options — one of which might be a very enticing situation in Los Angeles with the Clippers.

The ESPN L.A. report mentions that the Clippers have had initial talks with the Nuggets regarding Karl, but have not yet formally requested permission to speak with him.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.