BOSTON – Nuggets coach Brian Shaw rapped his team’s pregame personnel report before playing the Wizards earlier this season.
“Very good, very good,” forward Danilo Gallinari said. “Better than me, for sure.” Said guard Ty Lawson: “It was at least a B, A. If he had a CD, I’d buy it.”
Denver lost by 30.
That December game was the second in a stretch the Nuggets lost seven of eight. They’ve been even worse lately, dropping 11 of their last 12.
It appears Denver is in crisis, Shaw facing constant criticism as the Nuggets sink further in the standings.
“We’re not in a good place right now,” Shaw said before his team’s latest loss, a 104-100 setback to the Celtics on Wednesday clinched when the Nuggets botched two inbound passes in the final 24 seconds.
Throughout the season, Shaw has emphasized two major points:
1. If the team doesn’t perform better, its components – players and/or the coach – will change.
2. As long as he’s in place, he’s going to continue working hard, and the players should do the same.
There’s no reason to believe Shaw isn’t holding up his end of the bargain.
He integrates movie scenes and music into film sessions, trying to lift his team’s spirits. Gallinari gave an example of a Discovery Channel-type feature on animals that promoted team and togetherness.
And of course, there’s Shaw’s rapping, which debuted publically in 1994 with “Anything Can Happen:”
“It’s always fun to come to the gym and not really have the same thing going day in and day out. It becomes repetitive,” Lawson said. “So, the way he switches it up with movie quotes, rap songs, other little songs, it’s good for us.”
That hasn’t been enough, though, and the question becomes: Is Shaw good enough for the Nuggets on the whole?
This team has talent, but the results have been underwhelming. Denver went 36-46 last year, Shaw’s first as a head coach, and is 19-31 this year. Even Shaw admits the Nuggets have yet to find an identity since he took over for George Karl.
That’s bad news in Denver, where the roster is paid to win now.
Even after dealing Timofey Mozgov without taking a player in return, the Nuggets’ team salary is still above average, according to Basketball Insiders. But Denver has $68,597,595 committed for next season, seventh-most in the league (behind just the Nets, Cavaliers, Warriors, Heat, Thunder and Wizards).
Shaw’s rotations have been questionable, and his players have too often look disjointed on the floor. His public statements have been curious, at best.
He drew national attention for saying, “It just looks like you almost have to try to lose as bad, and in the way we’ve been losing.” Whether he was accusing his players of deliberately tanking or just making a tongue-in-cheek comment that was taken too literally, Shaw put himself in a bad position. With everything else going on, why risk alienating your players like that?
Even when not using the media to motivate his team, which (like other coaches) he does quite often, Shaw has a penchant for suspect statements. Just look at these consecutive sentences: “The West is tough. I don’t want to make any excuses. We’ve still been dealing with injuries this year.”
I believe every NBA coach – Gregg Popovich possibly excepted – is on a clock until his players tune him out. Are the Nuggets still getting Shaw’s message?
“It’s still going through,” Lawson said.
For how long, though?
The coach could change, too. In the meantime, Shaw is looking for his next motivational trick.
“I’m willing to do pretty much anything to try to find what can work with us,” Shaw said. “But it’s been hard.”