Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl directs his team against the Golden State Warriors during Game 6 of their NBA Western Conference quarter-final playoff basketball game in Oakland

Denver Nuggets part ways with coach George Karl

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Last season the Denver Nuggets were everybody’s darlings — 57 wins, a revamped and good young roster, an entertaining team built on the foundation of the Carmelo Anthony trade pieces, a team cut short by injuries in the playoffs but with a bright future ahead.

Now all the architects of that are gone.

First GM Masai Ujiri bolted for Toronto and a big pay raise, now just-named NBA Coach of the Year George Karl is leaving the team. That was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and now has been officially confirmed by the team.

“George has been an instrumental part of our success over the past decade, and we appreciate everything he did to keep us among the top teams in the Western Conference,” Nuggets President Josh Kroenke said in a released statement. “He is a Hall of Fame coach whose legacy in Denver will last for years to come. George is a legend in the game of basketball and I could not have more respect for him as a person and coach.”

The issue was apparently money — Karl was going into the last year of his deal and with Ujiri gone he wanted an extension and some job security. The Nuggets were not willing to do that. So rather than have a lame duck coach and the issues that could entail they decided to let him go.

The Nuggets, with a good young roster, think they can attract an elite coach, Wojnarowski reports.

Maybe they can get a top coach, but one as good as Karl? One better suited to coaching this roster than Karl? The guy made the playoffs every year with Denver, and if you say “he didn’t win a title” I’d say nobody could with the rosters he had.

The Nuggets have lost both the NBA Executive of the Year and Coach of the Year in a matter of a week. Ouch.

The Denver opening becomes very attractive — a young coach like Brian Shaw would be a good fit. Shaw knows how to win, players love him (remember the Lakers players wanted him to take over for Phil Jackson) and Shaw has been around winning a lot as a player and coach. But they also could get guys like Lionel Hollins and, depending on what Nuggets’ ownership was willing to pay, maybe the Van Gundy brothers could be in the mix.

Karl also will have teams knocking on his door. He seems like a great fit with the Los Angeles Clippers, a team knocking on the door and that plays an up-tempo, entertaining style. Memphis is reportedly interested in bringing him in, there is even talk of a “trade” of Hollis for Karl. You can bet Brooklyn and just about every other team with a coaching vacancy will reach out to him. PBT has been told that Karl will not be a candidate in Toronto right now, that Dwane Casey will return there as coach next season.

Finally, Andre Iguodala can opt out and be an unrestricted free agent this summer (and he is expected too, seeking the security of a longer deal). Does this change his thinking? Does Denver management not being willing to spend on Ujiri and Karl foreshadow what could happen with his contract situation? The team also has Corey Brewer as a free agent this summer and he played key minutes for the team.

Gallinari, Faried lead Nuggets to 121-113 win over Magic

Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Danilo Gallinari scored 21 points, Kenneth Faried had 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, and the Denver Nuggets defeated the Orlando Magic 121-113 on Saturday night.

Jusuf Nurkic added 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds for the Nuggets, who lost their previous two games. Will Barton scored 16.

Faried was 9 of 10 from the field and Denver shot 57 percent in sending the Magic to their third straight loss.

The Nuggets outscored short-handed Orlando 64-34 in the paint. Magic center Nikola Vucevic did not suit up because of an injury.

Evan Fournier led Orlando with 24 points. Serge Ibaka had 22 points and four blocked shots.

After trailing by four in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets bounced back with big baskets from Nikola Jokic and Faried. Denver, which led by as many as 11 in the third, went ahead 109-106 on a 3-pointer by Gallinari with 4 minutes left and never trailed again.

Sparked by Ibaka’s block on Nurkic and 3-pointer at the other end midway through the third quarter, the Magic fought back from an 11-point deficit to take a 95-92 lead going into the fourth.

Taking advantage of numerous defensive breakdowns by Orlando, the Nuggets took a double-digit lead during the second quarter before settling for a 65-58 lead at halftime. Gallinari had 12 points while Faried and rookie Juancho Hernangomez both scored 12 off the bench for Denver.

The Nuggets, who led by 11 in the second period, shot 55 percent from the field and nearly 56 percent from 3-point range in the first two quarters. Coming off a loss to Charlotte on Friday night and playing their fourth game in five nights, the Magic seemed a step slow as Denver was allowed to drive the lane at ease in the first half.

Led by big men Jokic and Nurkic, the Nuggets scored 36 points in the paint compared to just 20 for Orlando and won the rebounding battle 25-16 in the first 24 minutes.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Hernangomez shot 4 of 5 on 3-pointers in the second quarter. … Denver’s bench outscored the Magic’s reserves 34-16 in the first half.

Magic: Vucevic (sore shoulder) and fellow center Bismack Biyombo (sore back) were game-time decisions after coming out of Friday night’s loss at Charlotte banged up. Biyombo started and had 12 points in 34 minutes. … The Magic recalled rookie center Stephen Zimmerman from the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Their six-game road swing ends Monday in Dallas. The Mavericks have won five of the last six regular-season matchups.

Magic: Orlando visits Atlanta on Tuesday night. The Magic have lost 17 of their last 22 games against the Hawks.

Pistons send Stanley Johnson, 2 others to D-League

Stanley Johnson
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Pistons assigned forwards Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson and guard Michael Gbinije to the team’s D-League affiliate in Grand Rapids.

The moves came before Grand Rapids hosted Delaware on Saturday night. The Pistons were off Saturday. Detroit hosts the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Johnson, a first-round draft pick in 2015, has averaged only 3.3 points in 21 games this season after showing potential as a rookie. Ellenson, who was drafted in the first round this year, has appeared in only six games this season.

Check out Tim Duncan’s giant new back tattoo

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San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan is apparently enjoying his retirement. He’s cutting loose, one could say.

And what’s the first thing you do when you try to cut loose? That’s right, get a tattoo that spans from traps to sciatica.

In a post shared by Elite Custom Tattoo in Arizona, it appears that Duncan got a full-length back tattoo on one side of his back.

The tattoo is elaborate, with a yin-yang symbol and a lot of mechanical underpinnings meant to look like Duncan is more machine than man.

I wonder where he got that idea?

#tattooing the #legend #wip #mechanicaltattoo #yingyang #turbo #gears

A photo posted by Christopher Escobedo (@elitecustomtattoo) on

Joel Embiid shows off custom “Trust the Process” shoes on Snapchat

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts to the call during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Cavaliers won 102-101. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
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Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid has a certain sense of humor, one that has embraced former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie’s motto of “Trust the Process” as a kind of personal mantra and brand.

Embiid has apparently taken it a step further, showing off custom sneakers on Snapchat of his “Trust the Process” shoes.

You read that right.

The inside tongue of a pair of kicks Embiid was rocking on Saturday read in all lowercase letters the phrase we now associate with the Cameroonian center.

Embiid famously dubbed himself “The Process” and even filed for a trademark on the language in order to sell merchandise no doubt to be with us shortly.

Keep it coming, Joel. Absolutely each and every one of these are great.