Tag: George Karl

Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl watches his team play against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of their NBA Western Conference basketball playoffs in Denver

NBA Season Preview: Denver Nuggets


Last season: The Nuggets continue to out-perform expectations while never really accomplishing anything of note.

They battled through all the roster turnover from one year to the next and a slew of quietly really damaging injuries to land the sixth seed last season after a hot start. Danilo Gallinari suffered two significant injuries that severely limited his ability to make the kind of impact he did at the start of the season where he looked like the best player on the team.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Faried emerged as a huge part of their future, and helped justify dumping Nene’s $13 million per year deal to get rid of an injury-riddled veteran. They brought in JaVale McGee with all his nonsense and faults, and the results were mixed. He had some genuinely electric playoff moments, but was still JaVale McGee.

They ran up against the Lakers and dug a hole. It looked over and they would quietly exit the playoffs. Instead, they battled back relentlessly and forced a game 7 against a team they were out-matched against, but didn’t have enough to get over the hump on the road. The result was the same, and the same questions lingered for Denver.

Key Departures: Arron Afflalo was the Nuggets’ best offensive weapon over the past three years, and now he’s wearing a deeper blue in Orlando. Al Harrington was a versatile scorer who put in a suprising amount of work defensively last year, and he’s also gone.

Rudy Fernandez headed home after threatening it for a half-decade, and Birdman Andersen was amnestied to make way for the future.

Key Additions: Denver snuck into the Dwight Howard trade and used their assets to grab Andre Iguodala. Iguodala gives them a hyper versatile forward who can run, rebound, pass, score, and defend at an elite level. He should fit in really well with the athleticism of Denver, and will be relied upon as the primary defensive stopper for George Karl. It cost a lot to get him but made them an overall much superior team.

They drafted Frenchman Evan Fournier in the first round and instead of sticking him overseas, have brought him over. The Nuggets already have more wings than they know what to do with, so Fournier likely won’t get many minutes this season. They also brought in Quincy Miller, who’s in a similar situation. They just have too much depth on the wings.

Anthony Randolph gives them another athletic big man to run the floor with and his ability to stretch the floor is something George Karl should get mileage out of as well.

Three keys to the Nuggets season:

1) Does speed kill the defense?: Karl has talked in the preseason about not needing to get into the elite level in traditional categories, but getting the defense overall into the good territory so that their point differential increases. There’s no plan to slow down the offense, so the question is, can you run a fast-pace team who also defends well?

To try and get it done, Karl will focus on the team’s athleticism in an attempt to pressure the ball and get into passing lanes. There will be a reliance on Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov as shot-blockers to “intimidate” defensivel, as Karl said on media day.

It’s never been a reliable method for improving defense. You usually have to grind the game down to give yourself time to set into your defensive positions and rotations, and an up and down game naturally opens the floor up for both teams. That will be the biggest challenge this season.

2.) Find shooters, or invent them. Danilo Gallinari has been snakebit the past two years. Whether it was injury, adjustment or bad luck, a normally reliable shooter tailed off the past two years. It came with an improvement in driving and drawing fouls, but the Nuggets still need him to stretch the floor.

They lack shooters, and their replacement options are unproven. Corey Brewer has historically been an awful perimeter shooter. Fournier is too green to see much court time. Ty Lawson can drill, but that would require someone else running the offense a majority of the time. He’ll get his, but they still need another option. Jordan Hamilton may be that fit. The second-year man out of Texas has great length and a reliable form. If the shooters don’t come around, the offense will still be good but not good enough.

3.) The Break’s Over, Here Comes The Takeover. Ty Lawson is going to have to take over the game at times. Andre Iguodala may be the most gifted player on the team, but Lawson has the ability to own the opponent with huge shots. That’s got be his role, and helping get Iguodala going will be a big part of it. At the same time, Lawson simply has to be the primary offensive threat and make himself into a household name. It’s a big step in front of him.

What Nuggets fans should fear: The defense can’t get a grip in the fast pace, Iguodala doesn’t make enough of an impact and no center emerges to protect the rim. McGee struggles as always and that contract becomes disastrous. There are no shooters and teams know to pack the paint and let the Nuggets shoot. Kenneth Faried hits his ceiling, none of the other players make jumps, and the team bobs along at the same level it has for two years.

How it likely works out: No reason to think Denver can’t challenge for the third seed. Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Kenneth Faried alone is a triumverate worthy of consideration in the West. When you factor their style, how well the roster is built, their depth, and the likelihood of at least a few players improving to the point of relevance, the Nuggets will once again be a fun team to watch who wins a bunch of games.

And yet still not title contenders.

Prediction: 51-31. Denver cracks 50 wins without a superstar, plays at a high level, thrills fans and league pass addicts, then loses in a tough second-round series. What is what what was is what shall be.

Karl on Lakers/Thunder dominance — that’s summer talk.

New York Knicks v Denver Nuggets

The general consensus — and you can throw me in with the majority here — is that the race in the West is for third. Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers are going to battle it out for the top two seeds in the regular season, then they are going to meet in the Western Conference finals.

After them, the race is for third place. San Antonio, the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets all have a legitimate shot at that three seed, but that’s about the best they can hope for.

Nuggets coach George Karl, how do you feel about that? Via the Denver Post.

What I basically say is — that’s summer talk. You have two teams that probably have the most talented players, especially in their top seven, but it’s summer talk. … I have a lot of respect for both of those teams. … But that doesn’t mean we never thought we could overtake them. Our goal this summer was: How do we get better? And how do we move closer to the top-echelon teams?

It is “summer talk” because, well, the moves to bring in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to the Lakers happened in the summer and we haven’t had any games since then to discuss.

Problem is for Karl (and Popovich and Del Negro) that this summer talk is going to turn into fall then winter talk as well. This is going to happen. They are chasing the Thunder and Lakers.

George Karl thinks NBA would be better with shorter season

Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl watches his team play against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of their NBA Western Conference basketball playoffs in Denver

When the NBA started up on Christmas Day last year, more than one person I know — some friends who are more casual NBA fans, some people within the sports media industry — told me they liked the NBA season starting later.

George Karl is with them.

In an article at NBA.com article by Steve Aschburner primarily about how coaches are happy to have a full training camp again, the veteran Nuggets coach voted for a shorter season.

“I’m sure Commissioner Stern won’t like this, but I think the product would be better if we shortened the season. When we start playing in late October, the people are thinking football. If you could just get us less fatigue [in a shorter season], I think you’d have a better product. When they started on Christmas Day, I thought, ‘This is not a bad idea. This should be the start of NBA basketball … Maybe start Dec. 1 and play 62 games, whatever number they’d come to.”

Why doesn’t that happen? Money. It’s always money.

Shrink the schedule and you shrink how much season ticket holders have to pay, how much sponsors pay to reach them, most importantly how much television will pay to broadcast the game (locally and nationally). That means players would make less, too. The overall pool of money would shrink. And if you think the owners want the pool of money to shrink you were not paying attention during the lockout.

That said, the problem with the shorter schedule last year from a quality perspective was how condensed it was, the back-to-back-to-backs and so on. Guys wore down because of the lack of rest. Karl is right, if NBA teams started on Christmas and played 60 games or fewer there likely would be a better product and more attention to the regular season because each game would mean more.

There would just be less money. And we can’t have that.

Kenyon Martin talks about George Karl talking too much

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets - Game Three

For seven years, Kenyon Martin was a Nugget. For six of those, George Karl was his coach — and those were some pretty good Nuggets teams.

But you don’t have to like someone to work with them. Martin and Karl are not on each other’s Christmas card list.

Karl has remarked multiple times about how the current Nuggets roster — without Martin, without Carmelo Anthony, without J.R. Smith — is easier to coach. The drama is gone, the gunners are gone and Karl couldn’t be much happier with his team that runs, shares the ball and tries to beat you with balance.

Martin didn’t like all those comments, as he told Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated.

“Man, listen, George needs to keep his mouth shut, first and foremost,” Martin said. “Melo don’t play there no more. So Karl shouldn’t be commenting on Melo. If George was such a great coach, then Melo would want to stay. He wouldn’t want to leave.

“If the organization was ran right, he wouldn’t want to leave, so it ain’t Melo. With Melo, not one time when he was there did he bring that in the locker room when all that stuff was going on. Not one day. Everybody made it a bigger deal than it had to be. That’s a good kid. They act like this kid was a cancer, like he came in there and destroyed the locker room and made everybody hate him. No, it wasn’t nothing like that man. And it bothers me for people to be talking about how he’s a selfish player and he has to defend himself.”

So, Karl shouldn’t talk about former players but Martin can talk about former coaches and that’s cool?

Also, Carmelo didn’t bring the trade drama into the locker room? He brought it to the entire organization, from the owner to the ball boy. Anthony’s demand changed the culture in Denver. Could the Nuggets management have handled it better? You bet. But make no mistake, it all started with Anthony. If you don’t think it got into the locker room, well, you are an Anthony apologist.

Which Martin apparently is. That brings us to the comments about Anthony being selfish and questions of if he can fit with Jeremy Lin in New York. Martin has Antimony’s back.

“Smart basketball player, and the best player on that team — hands down. So I don’t understand why people are questioning whether he’s selfish or not. No, the man is not selfish. The man wants to win. He’ll do whatever it takes to win. I don’t think he’ll mess nothing up. He’s going to come in and be Carmelo Anthony.”

I’m with Martin here — Anthony has subjugated is game before to win. He did it in Syracuse to win a national title. He did it on Team USA to win a gold medal. (Although, to be fair, to take a back seat to LeBron James and Kobe Bryant is different than with Jeremy Lin.) But Martin’s right here, Antony is going to do what he thinks is best for the Knicks to win games. We’ll see how that perspective blends in.

Martin is in a great spot the rest of this season with a Clipper team that is a threat in the West. If he brings then what he’s capable they are that much closer. But what will he say about Vinny Del Negro someday?

Blake Griffin reminds George Karl of Shawn Kemp


Reign Man II?

It’s hard to come up with a good historic comparison for Blake Griffin, because that combination of size and athleticism just do not come along very often. If ever.

But Nuggets coach George Karl had one that I liked — Shawn Kemp. Here’s his quote via the Los Angeles Times.

“I’ve talked to a couple of guys who’ve said, ‘Was Shawn as powerful?'” said Denver Nuggets Coach George Karl, who coached Kemp in Seattle, before Thursday’s game. “I think that’s the guy who’s closest….

“This kid, he gets so high above the rim. It reminds me of when I was an athlete and I could jump and we got the 8-foot hoops,” Karl said. “He does things that we used to do on 8, maybe 7-foot [hoops]. You know, throwing it down from three feet away.”

I’m not sure I could do what Griffin does on the little Nerf hoop hanging off the top of a door in my house.

For those of you younger readers who hear Kemp’s name and think of the bloated post-lockout version of the man, or joke about his personal life, do remember that he was also a force on the court. Watch the video above. You’ll see why this may be the best Griffin comparison there is. And it’s still not perfect.