Nuggets need to decide direction, then hire coach

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Brian Shaw needed to be let go; it had become very clear he had lost the locker room. The team is 20-39 and in a free fall. Frankly, the Nuggets should have done this sooner (or waited until the summer).

Of course, as soon as the vacancy came up a list of potential long-term successors started to float around — Mike D’Antoni, Avery Bradley, Alvin Gentry, Mike Malone, Vinny Del Negro.  But before the Nuggets start interviewing candidates, they need to sit down and answer one question:

What kind of team are they trying to build?

The seeds of Brian Shaw’s disaster of a tenure were sewn as he was hired. Remember that a couple of years ago the Nuggets had just completed a 57-win season and were considered very dangerous for the playoffs until Danilo Gallinari went down just before the postseason started (the shorthanded Nuggets lost in the first round). Then came a tough summer, which started when GM Masai Ujiri left for Toronto. Coach George Karl was in the last year of his contract and rather than extend him and give him more power in the organization, team president Josh Kronkie canned Karl.

The Nuggets hired Shaw, who was one of the top assistant coaches out there at the time, and he seemed ready. Management and Shaw were on the same page about wanting better defense and maybe slowing down the tempo more — not so much running and gunning. The problem was the roster — starting with Ty Lawson at the point and moving through the entire rotation — was built for up-tempo basketball. The Nuggets didn’t go out and reshape the roster to fit Shaw’s style, so he was stuck trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

Then came a perfect storm of problems. Shaw struggled to communicate and get the players to buy into his vision. As David West noted, this was not a mature locker room Shaw was trying to reach. Shaw didn’t adapt his system. Injuries continued to be an issue, with Gallinari never being the same, JaVale McGee and others missing extended time. It all started to spiral downhill, picking up momentum as the slide got worse this season.

Shaw deserves blame here; he deserved to be let go. But the seeds of the friction that was his demise ties back to a real disconnect between the style Shaw wanted to coach — what management said it wanted — and the roster he was given.

Denver needs to figure out what kind of team it wants to be before it hires its next coach.

With much of the current roster under contract for another year, if they want to go up tempo then Alvin Gentry would be an excellent fit. Mike D’Antoni could work well (again, if you give him a roster that fits his very particular tastes).

If the Nuggets want a more defensive-oriented team, Malone would be a great call. But while he can bring discipline, there is a need for a roster overhaul to make that happen. The Nuggets have the flexibility and cap space (especially after the salary cap jumps in 2016) to make roster changes if they so choose.

The Nuggets, known for not spending on coaches and front office people like other franchise, may go with a top assistant coach and give him his first time job (Boston assistant Jay Larranaga is suggested by Ken Berger of CBSSports.com).

Whatever they do they need to think it through and get the entire organization on the same page. It sounds like they are leaning that way.

Kevin Love tries to ignore trade rumors, ‘let the chips fall where they may’

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Cleveland Cavaliers GM said he has no interest in trading Kevin Love.

You can count the number of people around the league who believe him on one hand. There’s a good chance Love is still on the Cavaliers at the end of this season, but that’s more about him being in the first year of a four-year, $120 million contract extension than it is Cleveland’s willingness to trade him (or interest from other teams, if money was not an issue). The Cavaliers are rebuilding, and if they can get young players and picks for Love, they have to consider it.

With Portland off to a slow start, and Love growing up in the Pacific Northwest, that rumor has floated around. There are others. Love is just trying to ignore them and play ball, he told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times.

“I know there’s talk about me possibly being the missing piece somewhere,” Love said. “There’s been constant chatter since I signed that I could be traded. It’s one of those things where I’m going to keep doing right by the team, by Cleveland and by the organization. If my number is called, so be it, but I’m going to stay true to my commitment and let the chips fall where they may.”

Love, who has been open in recent years about his struggles with anxiety and mental health, said dealing with the trade rumors that constantly swirl around him can be a challenge on that front.

“A big aspect of mental health is just staying in the present but it’s so hard,” he said. “You have to try to not get too far ahead of yourself or get worked up. You can get that anxious feeling or fear for the future, but you have to try to stay focused on getting better and let things work out the way they should.”

Kevin Love has played well to start the season, averaging 18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, shooting a respectable 34.7 percent from three. He could help a lot of teams, particularly ones in the West who want to be in the mix for a ring but who look at the Lakers and Clippers and think, “we have to get better fast.”

The rumors around Love are just going to get louder the closer and closer we get to the trade deadline. Love will have to do a lot of work to tune all that out.

 

Bulls big man Luke Kornet out following surgery on sinus obstruction

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Just before last Christmas, Luke Kornet broke his nose. Apparently, that never healed quite right.

Kornet underwent surgery to repair a sinus obstruction on Monday, the Chicago Bulls announced. There is no timetable for his return, although coach Jim Boylen suggested it could be less than two weeks.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen added this at practice, via NBC Sports Chicago.

“Kornet had sinus surgery this morning. He had blockage and some issues from a previous fracture from when he was in New York. We just felt it was time to go in there and clean that thing out. That happened this morning at 6 AM. He’s out. Surgery went well. We’ll have more to report as we go. Originally, it was a seven-ten-day thing where he’d be back. I think it’s one of those things they don’t know until they get in there how extreme it is. But he had blockage and it needed to be done.”

This does not impact the Bulls much on the court as Kornet has fallen out of the rotation in recent games (in part because of the sinus condition, in part because he just hasn’t played well). Kornet signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Bulls over the summer.

D’Angelo Russell says weather played ‘major part’ in picking Warriors over Timberwolves

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D'Angelo Russell wants to play with Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns’ Timberwolves were reportedly interested in Russell last summer.

Why did Russell join the Warriors instead of Minnesota?

Russell, via Chris Hine of the Minneapolis StarTribune:

“I thought the opportunity here was amazing … ” Russell said after Warriors shootaround Friday. “It was definitely something I was considering very strongly. But then when this opportunity came, the weather is way better, so that helped me.”

“I did my first winter in New York and that was tough,” Russell said. “So to get the opportunity to go somewhere where it’s warm again, I think that played a major part in my plan.”

I don’t blame him one bit.

Russell grew up in Kentucky then finished high school in Florida. He spent his first couple NBA seasons with the Lakers.

He also played collegiately at Ohio State and a a couple years for the Nets. In other words, he spent enough time in cold-weather locations to know how miserable they can be.

This is an issue that will always hinder teams like the Timberwolves. It doesn’t mean they can’t attract free agents. It’s just a disadvantage.

There will always be players who don’t have multiple max offers. Minnesota can separate itself with money, playing time and other considerations.

But good for Russell for playing himself out of that group and earning a max contract in the Bay Area.

Kyrie Irving (shoulder) out for Nets-Pacers

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Kyrie Irving missed the Nets’ win over the Bulls on Saturday.

He’s not healthy enough to play the Pacers tonight.

Nets public relations:

Kyrie Irving (right shoulder impingement) is OUT.

Brooklyn (5-7) lags behinds Indiana (7-6) in the Eastern Conference’s middle morass. The Nets must try to catch up in the playoff race without their best player.

But it’s a long season. Brooklyn has plenty of time to gain ground. Spencer Dinwiddie is capable in relief, and the unselfish Nets can create ball movement while Dinwiddie rests.

I’m more concerned about next week. A segment of Brooklyn’s schedule:

  • Nov. 24 at Knicks
  • Nov. 25 at Cavaliers
  • Nov. 27 at Celtics

That’s the team Irving spurned in free agency, the team Irving requested a trade from and the team Irving just left after pledging to re-sign. Those are juicy matchups. Hopefully, Irving is healthy enough to play in all three.