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.

Chris Paul’s son joins him on Clippers bench in rout of Lakers (video)

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Is this disrespectful to the Lakers? Absolutely.

And I love it.

Chris Paul and the Clippers crushed their Los Angeles counterparts, 133-109, last night. The Clippers, who’ve won 13 of 14 in the series, have practically run out of ways to show up their crosstown rival on the court. If it now takes bench visitors, so be it.

This is the best late-blowout bench behavior since LeBron James led the Cavaliers in the water-bottle challenge in a December win over the Knicks. This would rank higher if Chris Jr. didn’t also joined the bench in the Clippers’ November win over the Mavericks, which is the pictured on this post.

Jawun Evans leaving Oklahoma State for NBA draft

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You’ve probably heard of the top college point guards for the 2017 NBA draft: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith Jr., De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. You might have even heard of French point guard prospect Frank Ntilikina.

Which point guard will be drafted next after those six?

One possibility: Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans.

Evan Daniels of Scout:

Evans looks like a second-round pick, but a dearth of point guards projected into the latter half of the first round could boost his stock.

He’s ultra quick and ultra aggressive and led the nation’s top KenPom offense. Evans relentlessly attacks the rim, often while forcing transition opportunities. That gets defenses scrambled, creating kickout-passing lanes and offensive-rebound opportunities.

However, the 6-foot Evans doesn’t finish that well at the rim – creating a major question about how he’ll translate to the NBA. The bigger defenders in the paint might limit his kickout passes, too.

His size also presents major problems defensively, though a 6-foot-4 wingspan at least helps.

Evans is good enough on jumpers to keep defenses honest, and at Oklahoma State, he had to create so much for himself. It’d be interesting to see whether limiting his burden improves his efficiency or whether his helpfulness is limited to having the ball in his hands.

My guess is the latter, and I’m unconvinced he’s good enough to demand such a role in the NBA. But the possibility is strong enough that I’d be excited about rolling the dice on him in the second round.

Shabazz Muhammad awkwardly mentions Collective Bargaining Agreement during halftime interview (video)

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The Timberwolves surprisingly led the Spurs by nine at halftime last night, which takes us to Shabazz Muhammad‘s mid-game interview.

Muhammad:

We’re doing a great job on defense, Wiggs, myself, everybody. It’s a tough team, especially Kawhi and the guys. So, we’re doing a really good job and everybody’s collective – Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Um. What?

To be fair, I can’t even imagine what type of nonsense I’d spew in the midst of a taxing workout or a high-pressure situation – let alone something that qualifies as both.

Unfortunately for Muhammad, Minnesota eventually fell to San Antonio, 100-93. But hopefully, he can laugh at this moment. He should, at least.

hat tip: reddit user cjsplash

Duke’s Jayson Tatum, California’s Ivan Rabb declare for NBA draft

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Wednesday a couple of forwards expected to go in the first round of June’s NBA draft said they plan on making the jump to the NBA.

As expected, Duke’s Jayson Tatum and Cal’s Ivan Rabb made their decisions official.

Duke announced Tatum’s decision.

Tatum is expected to be a top-five pick, DraftExpress.com currently has him as the No. 4 pick. The 6’8″ wing can flat-out score the rock, which is why teams are intrigued, as Rob Dauster of NBC’s College Basketball Talk told us in a recent podcast. However, teams wonder if he can create shots for others and not just himself, and if he’s going to be a good defender at the NBA level. He has the physical tools to do be a good defender, but will he put in the work game in, game out?

Rabb is a 6’10” sophomore who has a great NBA build and athleticism to spare, but at the NBA level everyone is a great athlete. Rabb doesn’t have a great perimeter game and needs to develop one and be a consistent defensive force to be a difference maker (or have a lengthy career) at the NBA level. DraftExpress.com has him going 22nd in this draft, and his stock seems to have fallen over the course of the season.