The more things change, the more they stay the same

We’ve all heard this infamous proverb before in movies, books, TV shows, etc., but up until now it’s been a phrase I’ve tried to keep out of my vocabulary when discussing my favorite sports team: the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, this is about the only statement I feel is applicable for the way I feel right now. After losing last night and hearing George Karl talk about the “great season” we’ve had I began to do some reflecting of my own, but then started to think: “Was is really that great?” The reality is that for most of the year, even prior to the season actually starting, this team has been bombarded with controversy in some way or another. The Carmelo Anthony trade saga admittedly left me motionless and cranky, yet when the trade went down, I felt — just as I’m sure we all did — replenished, with a new sense of being. Life, as a Nuggets fan, was suddenly fun and interesting once again, in that we were actually watching real basketball as apposed to “zombie ball.” To describe how excited I was for the playoffs this year would be like describing a child’s first visit to Disney Land. I was ecstatic, as optimistic as I’ve ever been. Rummaging through message boards and talking with friends, the subject of advancing in the playoffs was all that was ever discussed. How far can we go? Are we about to defy the laws of how to be successful in the playoffs? Could we really win an NBA championship? My brain was flooded with these questions and for hours I’d ponder the extent of which they might come to fruition, and most all of the time these Nuggets-related thinking sessions would end with a confident, “This is our year!” conclusion.

Yet, here I sit again; it’s late April, the Nuggets just got eliminated from the Playoffs, and I’m apathetically extinguished of all passion I once thrived off of. We lost 4-1 to the Thunder in the first round. The superhero-like finish down the stretch in which we amassed one of the best records in the entire NBA all seems to be worth nothing now. How could it mean something when, what you were fighting for that whole time finally confronts you and you wilt like a tethered, beaten tree in the wind? That great, team-oriented basketball we were becoming so recognized for around the league disappeared when it really mattered; that’s the bottom line. It’s like the one the thing we’ve studied for all year long, the test we felt so secure about taking just days before it actually arrived, suddenly was placed before our eyes, and upon that we froze — dead in our tracks. Instead of boldly grasping our own destiny within our hands we shook, page by page, barely capable of overturning the next chapter in our lives at that moment. But the worst part: We knew we had it this time. We knew this was finally the tip of the mountain we’d been so desperately trying to summit all of these years, and for whatever reason, had been perennially shut down by. That’s the most frustrating thing; this was our time.

Slowly I’ll recover from this drunken daze that visits me every year in late April to early May, but for now I want to touch on a few subjects that remain fresh in my mind after this disappointing end to a roller-coaster ride of a season.

I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen this summer, but I’m confident we’ll be back next year with a sound group of players capable of winning a good amount of basketball games. Fan favorite, J.R. Smith, will have to be strongly persuaded to return after another year of being inconceivably mistreated in the Playoffs, but make no mistake about it, Afflalo should be our No. 1 priority as far as the shooting guards go; luckily for us, he’s a restricted free agent. The other prominent restricted free agent employed by the Nuggets is Wilson Chandler. Although I’d love to see Wilson return, there’s no doubt that Gallinari is going to be the centerpiece of our future at small forward, and with Harrington under hefty contractual obligation for years to come, it’s hard to imagine how three guys at the same position worthy of starting on an NBA roster would be able to coexist on one team. To me, the bottom line is that Chandler carries a lot of value right now, and it would be in our best interest to explore the extent of this. If we could obtain another big man, or a first round draft pick in 2012 (already considered to be one of the best drafts ever), then I think it becomes paramount to follow up in this regard. I’m not sure the exact limitations on sign-and-trades, but I’ll be looking into this so that we, at Roundball Mining Company, can inform you about whether or not trading Chandler for equal value is a possibility. Meanwhile, the Nuggets long-time front-court duo of Nene and Kenyon Martin are both unrestricted free agents. It’s thought that of the two, Nene is more inclined to re-sign given that his family is stationed in Denver, but Kenyon Martin was quoted today by Chris Tomasson as saying, “I don’t want to leave, but it’s out of my control right now, so we’ll see.” Personally, I’d love to see these two re-signed as much as anybody, but this most recent playoff exit worries me; it couldn’t have come at a more worse time considering the precarious contractual situations of our players. You have to think that at some point in time, guys would get tired of this wearing trend, and given the chance to bolt, might strongly consider it. Of course, the right amount of money can usually fix issues like this.

Now, to bring the title of this piece full circle, here is simply my own diatribe on the final series of games this season.

I’m frustrated Nuggets Nation, I really am. Though I recognize the illustrious career George Karl has had, I also recognize the intricacies of his coaching style that have all-too-often haunted this team when the games really matter. This year, I truly believed it would be different. I thought the the Thunder were a good team, but I also thought we could compete with anybody in the West. If you were to tell me that we’d lose this series 4-1 before the start, I don’t know if I would have believed you. To me, losing 4-1 was a monumental underachievement. Regardless of how well Durant played, there was no reason we should have lost in the manor in which we did: hardly any defense, sporadic offensive efficiency, horrendous free-throw shooting; and most importantly no real fire in our hearts, determination in our eyes or passion in our style of play. Every firm facet we had come to anoint as “Denver Nuggets basketball” totally vanished, and with no explanation as to why. J.R. Smith, who was a key cog to our success throughout the second half of the season, was prematurely made a scapegoat before the Playoffs even had begun, and once underway was unjustifiably benched for a large part of the first few games. On top of this, Karl cut down the minutes of the Nuggets’ other key energy supplier — Birdman — virtually taking him out of the series all together, and gave extended time to guys like Gallinari and Chandler who promptly disappeared under the pressure. To add to the head-scratching maneuvers, Karl continued to employ his “small ball” lineups that led to an unfair advantage in favor of Oklahoma City on the glass, and instead of recognizing his funky lineup mistakes, continued to “stay the course” totally disregarding what was directly in front of him. But perhaps my least favorite George Karl moment of this entire series, and probably season, actually occurred before it had even begun. In front of his players, during a time in which he should have been motivating them, Karl instead dropped something I’ve never heard a coach drop in my entire life following sports; he fully admitted that he didn’t like coaching in the Playoffs. Unfortunately for the thousands of Nuggets fans out there who actually do care about winning in the Playoffs, it certainly showed this year.

But who are we to expect anything different from Karl? This is a man, who although has accomplished great things in the regular season, has failed miserably come playoff time. Winning over 1,000 games is undoubtedly, beyond all measure, a crowning achievement in the NBA; but one would think that with such a copious amount of victories under their belt, that hand-in-hand would be a successful tenure in the Playoffs, maybe even capped off by a few NBA championships. Instead, Karl’s playoff history is littered with years underachievement, colossal upsets and numerous player-coach feuds, all of which we’ve been front-row patrons to since he arrived in Denver. The most telling stat: Karl harbors a near .600 winning percentage clip in the regular season at .596, yet in the playoffs maintains only a .443 percent record — a drastic contrast, and the lowest among all the coaches to win over 1,000 regular season games. The fans in Denver have regrettably had to see the brunt end of this trend by losing seven of the eight playoff series coached by Karl in the very first round, and if not for the arrival of Chauncey Billups in 2008, this would have likely been eight-straight early exits. Why the Nuggets franchise tolerates such underachieving endeavors year after year in the Playoffs, I will never know. Perhaps it is the notoriety and comfort level of having a coach on your roster that has the numerical claim of winning over 1,000 games — which I suspect is largely the case — but when I look around the league, it seems we are the only team satisfied with mediocrity. This year alone, Houston let go of Rick Adelman even though he was the winningest coach in team history (in terms of winning percentage). Before this, Charlotte dismissed another high-profile coach in Larry Brown despite him leading the team to it’s first, and only, playoff appearance just one year prior. So where do our standards lie? At what point is winning a descent amount of games in the regular season only to be embarrassed come playoff time simply not enough? I feel — like I hope all of you do as well — that our expectations as fans should be ever growing in order to keep our favorite franchise on it’s toes at all times, constantly improving and moving in a positive direction. George Karl admittedly was a giant step, but we’ve reached a plateau, and I don’t know how much longer I can take staring out over the same mildly enchanted valley waiting for something great to show us the way to the promise land.

If I had my way, Karl would be gone. I simply think that at this point we have to try something new. He’s been on board for long enough now, and I think it’s fair to say, “We get the point.” A solid regular season followed by abysmal effort come playoff time, leading to yet another first-round exit is what you get. But I am not in charge of basketball operations for the Nuggets, instead Masai Ujiri is, and I have great faith that he will do the right thing eventually. I trust Masai; I feel he has a greater knowledge of the game than I, so my faith resides within his palms. We will hopefully see more of his sage-like tactics this summer as he attempts to corral this deep, and talented team back together; but with a potential lockout, new Collective Bargaining Agreement and teams hungry for talent knocking on the door, nothing is certain. But there is one thing you can count on, and that’s Roundball Mining Company bringing you the most up-to-date analysis of everything concerning the Denver Nuggets. From pre-draft coverage, to free-agent break downs, to evaluating a potential lockout — we’ll have it all. So stay tuned, and thanks to all the loyal followers of this blog who made it such a great year!

Go Nuggets!!!

  • Warner

    Kalen,

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve written numerous times on this blog that Karl has reached his limit with this team. Even the Hawks who should seemingly be content with a 50 win team every season(Due to poor fan base and attendance) fired their coach because they wouldn’t accept mediocrity. Personally I believe Karl can bring a TON to a team but his strengths lie more with young talent development and he’s clearly a great regular season coach. I personally believe we should keep him one more year for the simple fact we have so many young and extremely talented players. What Karl has done to Dante Jones’, AAA’s, and JR’s careers are immeasurable. These were all undervalued, under appreciated players in their former franchises. Not to mention Nene, Melo, and Ty lawson are all guys that I believe have benefited from Karl. BUT… His in game/pregame strategy is so head scratching it makes me feel like I could do better. Clearly with 1000 wins has come a very stubborn man who won’t accept criticism. I doubt he’ll ever change so get some more use then allow him to retire with some dignity. Thanks for everything Kalen

  • Evan

    First off, thanks for the great reporting and analyzing this season. It’s been such a treat to be able to read this blog and connect more with other Nuggets fans, no matter what the outcome of this season was.

    As far GK, I agree wholeheartedly. After the trade when we were seemingly sailing smoother seas (alliteration!), I was really excited when he resigned for a few more years, as I expected that this would finally be the year to break free from this mediocrity. I had always assumed that Melo had been the problem and not Karl, but boy was I wrong. I love George Karl, he’s a classy guy and a good coach, but it is time for him to go. He obviously hasn’t figured out how to effectively coach in the postseason, and he probably isn’t going to in the near future either. Time to bring in someone willing to do whatever it takes to get a banner here.

    Like you, I wholeheartedly trust Masai. He knows what he’s doing, and I am confident he will take the steps to finally reach the next level.

  • DeShon

    I am proud to know that we have some nuggets fans that actually know what they are talking about. I also feel the same about GK.

    This series was just down right disappointing. With the last 2 minutes of the game I felt the nuggets would again beat OKC and keep our playoff chances alive. However, GK took out JR who had just hit 2 straight 3′s to push our lead to 8. We then again went to our small line up. Then we left Gallo on the bench, who was doing the best job on Durant. Sure he had 5 fouls but with 2 minutes left of our season you would of thought we would bring him in to stop Durant from getting on fire. GK didn’t and once again I was exasperated.

    I too am tired of this acceptance of mediocre get to the playoffs and lose in the first round attitude. It also is the way we do it. GK, I feel is the center piece to it. If anything coaching helps set the tone for a team. In any playoff I have never seen GK. disappointed, show any fire to his team, get them on the right track to win these tough playoff games (why were we still missing FTs?). It’s down right disappointing. If I don’t see GK leave next year (if the result is the same), I would just be devastated.

    I have hope that Masai will do what is needed and get the nuggets on track. With the progress we have made in the past 8 years we should be at the point of competing for a championship! We have the pieces lets just get it together nuggets.

  • ParkHillNative

    I hate to say it, but over on Denver Stiffs, before the series started, I predicted Thunder in 5. I thought those last two regular season games were pretty indicative. At least I’m proud that there was only one blowout. I thought the Nugs were just gonna get mowed down.

    I want to say I trust Masai as well, but I don’t know. He looked like a genius after the Melo trade. But Karl’s new contract is for at least 3 years. Does anybody think the Kroenkes are really gonna be okay with firing him before that time is up, and pay for two coaches at once? I’m afraid extending Karl before the playoffs might be Masai’s first misstep, and a potentially costly one at that, because yeah, I don’t see Karl suddenly turning the corner and becoming a competent playoff coach.

  • Mike

    While I agree George Karl has mismanaged JR Smith and hasn’t really helped him blossom into the player he has the potential to be, Karl is not the one to blame for this series. First place to point the blame is obviously the Free throw shooting. If we shoot 75% in the first 4 games we are probably leading the series 3-1. And you can’t blame a coach for missing free throws that is 100% on the players. Second you could point to the poor officiating in Games 1 and 5 in particular. I assume you all were yelling at your television about the same calls I was and I feel had we gotten a better whistle things would be a lot different. Third the 4-1 series score isn’t indicative of how close the games were. 3 of our losses were decided by 4 points or less. So to say they showed no effort and were embarrassed is a bit of an overreaction.

    But most importantly, you can’t look at this Nuggets team’s result and compare it to years past. This is a new, young team that had only played 25 (24 w/ the new knick players) games together before the playoffs. This team is still in the process of finding their identity and their roles. The old Nuggets were a team that had been following a similar formula year after year. The formula that was centered around Melo. Now there is no clear cut go to guy in the clutch (personally I think it should be a combo of J.R. and Lawson) but that will come with time. So much has gone on since the Melo trade that it feels like forever. But we have to keep it in perspective and realize this team is still getting to know one another. If a year from now we’re in the same spot then it will be cause for concern but now i feel it is just time to be patient.

    • Kalen

      That’s kind of my whole point Mike, is that there is always going to be some reason, some excuse, as to why we didn’t concoct a better performance. This year it was free throw shooting, in years prior it’s been injuries, lack of defense, offense, feuds, whatever. Its always something with Karl. You’re point about this being a new team, to me, corroborates my argument even more. That’s kind of why the piece was entitled “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” We showed no evidence of us needing anymore time to gel than what we already had, given how great our record was after the trade. We knew each other, the plays, the scheme (whatever that was) plenty, but yet once again it all disappeared once the playoffs started. This year more than ANY, was the year I felt we should have competed given how well we were playing prior to the Playoffs, and yet the same “no-show Nuggets” showed up (or didn’t show up) once again.

      I understand your point of view, and all the others who feel the say way, but to me, it’s the same tired story over and over with Karl, that’s all.

  • Aussie Nugs Fan

    It just hurts that in three of the games we were down three at the end with plenty of tics left and even with a host of 3pt threats we came up with terrible plays each time.

    This summer Ujiri really has to earn his money…

    Untouchables on this team are Nene, Ty and Gallo,

    Also really need to get AAA back (im just worried someone will make us overpay him, not sure how much cap space the bulls have but he would be perfect there).

    Would be great to keep chandler but again at the right price, if we can’t maybe he can be included in a trade,

    I really want to keep JR, such a weapon off the bench, not even close to his ceiling, but im worried this is the end of the road.

    Raymond has to go, im glad he did well here and has kept his trade value up but he does not want to play second fiddle.

    I know atlanta just beat orlando, but if they get tossed out by the bulls I have heard that Josh Smith could be up for grabs.

    I think smith is a great tough player who is super athletic and works hard on defense. Pretty much just a bit better than kenyon martin in every way.

    Can we make a combination of Raymond, K-Mart, Harrington, Chandler, Birdman, Moz, Kosta, JR

    for J-Smooth and loose parts,

    Not saying all of those players but atlanta could have any 3 and we could roll with a lineup of Ty, AAA, Gallo, J-Smooth, Nene. Pluse around 4 of the other nugs or other guys we trade for.

    Then you have effectively turned chauncey and melo into gallo and josh smith. With Ty lawson already better than chauncey and improving every day, and everyone knowing melo was going, I think thats pretty good.

    • Kalen

      That’s a great idea Aussie, and in the near future we’re going to try and explore a lot of these types of scenarios here at RMC given the amount of assets we have to work with this summer. I think something along the lines of Felton and Chandler for J-Smoove would be a great deal for us, but the two issues to look at would be (A) figuring out how he and K-Mart would co-exist, and (B) is he really a PF? The good thing is that K-Mart came out recently and said he wouldn’t mind coming off the bench as long as the team he was on is winning, but you have to legitimately wonder how sincere he is about that statement, and especially with the Nuggets. Would he really be open to giving up his long-time starting gig to a young guy like Smith who just came over via trade? I really want K-Mart back, but if we could land Smith it might make him dispensable, unless of course he’s confident this is where he wants to be. If K-Mart or J-Smoove would agree to come off the bench, we’d have one hell of a team.

      • Kalen

        One more thing: If we traded for Smith we would HAVE to re-sign J.R. Could you imagine those two guys on the same team? It would be like an athletic freak show of dunks and blocks every night. Plus, I’m pretty damn sure that a team of Nene, K-Mart, Smith, Gallo, J.R., Afflalo, Ty, Birdman and Big Al could compete with anybody out West.

        • Aussie Nugs Fan

          Yeah Kalen a young core of Ty, AAA, JR, J-smooth, Gallo and Nene could go toe to toe with the thunder for the next 5 years in the west. And would be the one of the funnest teams to watch ever.

          Yeah I agree I would like to see K-Mart stay because of his presence, but remember he is 34 this year. And if you could get J-Smooth on your roster that would make him more or less redundant. And being an expiring contract could he be of trade value?

          I believe Smith is a true PF, he might be slightly undersized but makes up for it with athletiscism. Plus then you could play Gallo at SF but depending on matchups smith they could guard each others opponent.

          I hope this is a possibility that the hawks would trade for chandler and raymond, (give them our no.1 pick too, and even kosta). Lets hope they get swept by the bulls so that they are encouraged to blow their team up.

  • Clay

    Kalen,

    Great summary and thanks for the analysis. I agree with your stance on the off season. I would really like a nucleus of Ty, Nene, Gallo and AAA. I would like to see Kenyon back at the right price. I feel Wilson Chandler is the odd man out. We need to get someone who can rebound for Chandler. Our lack of rebounding killed us in this series. I disagree with your assessment of JR, though.

    JR’s a cancer. His lack of focus, especially on D, is maddening. He has become a more willing passer and doesn’t settle as much on O, but he just hasn’t grown like he could have. His natural, physical talent is almost unrivaled in the NBA at his position. His mind is what sets him back. We need to let him go.

    This leads me to my next point: George Karl isn’t to blame for our early exit. Before the series, I had the Thunder in 5. This was a terrible match-up for the Nuggets. Ty can’t hang with Westbrook on D, Durant is too good and we had no answer for their bigs. Especially when it came to protecting the rim and rebounding. This was how it played out in the regular season and it was the same in the playoffs. I agree, George Karl was too slow to start scaling back the small line-ups. I also agree he pulled JR at the wrong time in Game 3. But how is Karl to blame for our bigs not rebounding, Wilson Chandler being MIA, Felton pounding the air out of the ball in all of the close games, AAA not being 100%, etc.

    And do you think that our guys coming out flat could be due to a lack of experience for the majority of the roster? Gallo and Chandler had never been to the playoffs. Ty had never started a playoff game. Nene has never been an emotional leader. K-Mart just isn’t the same guy he was a few seasons ago. Felton had been in the playoffs before, but does playing point guard for the Bobcats in the playoffs as an 8-seed count for much? Plus, these guys have had half a season together and are really limited in how they can run their offense. This is a huge disadvantage when you’re seeing a team, minimum, 4 times in a row. It allows the other team to key in on their schemes and when their offensive game plan has to be vanilla, the defense can adapt a lot easier.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how anyone could expect a team pieced together at the trade deadline without a superstar to make a ton of noise in the playoffs. It’s unrealistic and it’s unfair. We need to take a deep breath and realize our future is in a much better place than what it was to start the season. Our cap situation is as flexible as its ever been in the past decade. We have a stud in Ty Lawson who is growing very quickly. We have a great defender and outside shooter in AAA. We have quality big in Nene. We have a pretty solid 3 with room to grow in Gallo. And we also have solid assets in Felton and Chandler, should we want to make a trade or sign them.

    Take a step back from the ledge. Be proud that these guys gave us 20-30 games of excitement and made a run at all. Would you rather have this than Chauncey making $14.2 million next year and Melo’s pouting? That’s what I thought.

    • Kalen

      Fair points Clay, but I stand firmly by everything I’ve said. This isn’t about one year, this is about nearly a decade of incompetence in the playoffs. If this was just this year, I’d be totally fine with what happened given all the points you mentioned above.

      • Clay

        Cool, I think the other area where we probably disagree is what our chances have been to advance during our past 8 trips to the postseason. To recap:

        03-04: Timberwolves. Didn’t have a chance, Melo’s rookie year and a Timberwolves team that got eliminated in the WCF.

        04-05: Spurs. They won the championship, ’nuff said.

        05-06: Clippers. Terrible match-up and an incredibly dysfunctional team. Karl was part of the dysfunction.

        06-07: Spurs, again. Won the championship, again.

        07-08: Lakers. Went to the Finals, lost to the Celtics. Couldn’t match the Lakers’ talent.

        08-09: A couple of inbounds plays away from the Finals.

        09-10: Jazz. Cancer sucks. Truly, that was our best chance at a championship. But, Karl wasn’t there. And we saw what happened…

        So, I don’t necessarily think that we have choked. Which of these match-ups favored the Nuggets?

        Either way, being a Nuggets fan can be frustrating. And who knows, I could be totally wrong. I’m curious to see what happens next year. It will be telling either way.

        • kalen

          See, I’ve never really been a big fan of that argument. Like I’ve said, its not always the fact that we lose, but the way in which we lose. And again, you can go on down that list making one excuse after another — which people often do. But as far as I could tell, we had enough talent on our team for a good number of those years to (A) finish with a better record in the regular season, thus placing us higher in the standings creating better match-ups, and (B) at least put up a fight like we saw out of New Orleans this year — speaking of which, won just as many games against L.A. this year as we did when we supposedly pushed them to the brink in the WCFs a few years back. I know we all like to claim we were just “a few in bounds plays away from the finals” that year, but losing — and folding over the way we did in the final few games — in six games isn’t as close as people like to believe. You think the Lakers were really shaking in their boots this year when the Hornets had them tied at two-two? No way, and same goes for when we had them at that same level. Even if you do believe George was somehow responsible for us reaching the WCFs and not Chauncy, you still have to aknowledge it was he who blew our chances of taking that series because of his refusal to design a good in-bounds play. He had AC of all people throwing the ball in with Lamar Odom guarding him. What kind of competent NBA coach would ever let that slide, especially in the playoffs? I remember in fact, when Chauncey first got to Denver he stated how he was “shocked” we didn’t have any in-bounds plays, and that he’d never seen that in all his years of playing. Bit the very worst part of that series: Even after botching one game due to a lack of a good in-bounds play, Karl fails to adjust and come up with one thus resulting in even more issues later on. It was a microcosm of his coaching style — lack of attention to detail and failure to adjust — and it cost us the series just as is the case every year. So sorry Clay, but we probably just won’t see eye to eye on this issue. I’ve heard all the pro Karl arguments before, and none have moved me whatsoever. I can live with the guy as coach, but come playoff time just be ready to underachieve, that’s all I’m saying.

  • clive

    I don’t understand how the inbound to KD at the end was not a backcourt violation.
    1) KD clearly had possession of the ball. He had both hands on the ball, and martin didn’t so much as tip it.
    2) KD had either stepped on the backcourt in the first step or he did not.
    3a) If KD did not step on the backcourt the first time, then he was in the froncourt with the possession of the ball, then stepped on the backcourt. hence a violation.
    3b) If KD did step on the backcourt the first time, he still came back into the frontcourt, then went back on the backcourt. hence a violation.
    Another blown call at the end of a close game; another loss by the nuggets.

    But really, like yall said, what was Karl thinking, going with the small-ball 2-undersized pg lineup? Neither of them could guard Westbrook out there. If anything, we should’ve gone big on them. OKC is a soft, jump shooting team; that’s why nene was destroying them inside. why not run lawson-nene high pick and roll every time down the court? it resulted in a foul or a easy basket every time. nuggets had so many pieces to try to create favorable matchups. and yet Karl didn’t utilize the greatest asset of this team: the flexibility and the depth of the roster.

    • Kalen

      Yeah Clive, that was definitely a back-court violation. How can a guy have his entire body one one side of the court, step on the line and that not be a violation? It’s weird the similarities between the in-bounds plays/controversial calls of this series compared to the Lakers in the WCFs a few years back. Such tiny little details seem to alter a series all together.

    • Boris

      Because that’s not how the rule works.

      On an inbound at the end of the game, you are allowed to catch a ball in the front court and have your momentum carry you into the backcourt. It’s a subjective call, but that’s definitely what happened with Durant there. His foot on the line means he is considered in the backcourt. From the NBA rulebook:

      “A ball being dribbled is (1) in the frontcourt when the ball and both feet of the player are in the frontcourt, (2) in the backcourt if the ball or either foot of the player is in the backcourt”.

      And that’s when the ref blew the whistle. The other two refs, know the rule, overturned what should have been a no-call.

      Further, if there was no whistle, Durant is still considered in the backcourt on the second step. He is in the backcourt until the ball and both of his feet are completely in the frontcourt. Durant could have dribbled all the way back to the backcourt paint if he wanted to, and it wouldn’t have been a violation.

      • Andrew

        So, per the rulebook, Durant was not in the frontcourt until both feet have touched down in the frontcourt? That makes sense then, because I thought when he started with the left foot on the line, dribbled the ball into the frontcouurt and then went back onto the line with the left foot again, that was the violation. Fair enough.

      • clive

        1) I don’t see any mention of “momentum” in the rules. That’s some b.s. that the ref gave to K-Mart at the moment. This “momentum” doesn’t apply for any other out-of-bounds lines. Why here?
        2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I4QtacZIXA
        go to 2:40. go frame by frame if you want to. KD had both feet in the frontcourt with the ball. then his feet slid into backcourt. Violation. But suppose KD isn’t in the backcourt right there. b/c of some ‘momentum’ rule. The very next step KD takes with his right foot definitely does go into the backcourt. Violation.
        3) forget all that. Why do the 2 refs who are further away from the view overturn the ref who had the best view of it? after a pep-talk? and explain it on some ‘mometum’ rule that doesn’t even exist? if you know anything about where the refs stand on the court, you know that the other two would not have possibly had a good look at any of that.
        I’m not saying the call a ref makes can not be overruled at all. but i would think that there needs to be some kind of clear and convincing evidence.

        It’s simple: NBA + refs want to crown KD the next big star, because they are supposedly more marketable. Never mind the fact that this wasn’t the case for the Denver Nuggets fan base who grew tired of our ‘superstar’ Melo and were galvanized team ball.

        Not saying the Nuggs would have won if the refs got it right. My only point is that Refs blew yet another call and their motives are plainly fiscal. It. boils. my. blood.

  • doktarr

    I think it would be a huge mistake to can Karl at this stage. For the first time in his tenure, he actually has a team that is built to play the style he wants to play. As soon as he got a hold of them, they went on a tear through the league.

    Then, we lost in the playoffs to the team that is, in all likelihood, the worst matchup for the Nuggets of any team in the league. In a series where four of the five games were decided by 4 points or less, and the first game (which set the tone) was lost at least significantly due to a bad call. And a series where our best wing defender was hobbled and missed two games.

    About my only legitimate complaint with Karl is that he played Felton at the 2 way too much. Aside from that, I can’t complain. I think his overall coaching job this year was borderline heroic, all things considered.

    Give the man a chance for at least a full year, now that he has the team he wants, before you judge him.

    As for Masai, I also think he’s also done a great job. Getting even close to fair value in the Anthony deal, given our lack of leverage, was an exceptional achievement. My only wish is that he had taken over 40 days earlier, so that he could have stopped the Al Harrington contract from being signed. Wow, what a terrible contract.

  • Andrew

    Kalen,
    I completely agree with your take on Karl, and so does every other Nuggets fan I know. Good man, great regular season coach, poor playoff coach. Yeah, I know, it was never his fault…sooner or later it comes down to the old saying “you are what your record says you are”. Karl is a .443 playoff coach.
    I don’t know if anyone else thought the same thing, but after the two regular season games and the tough loss in the first playoff game, wasn’t it obvious that the Nuggets were going to lose this series unless they did something to change the dynamics? Aside from the in-game decisions, Karl needed to make a bold move like using Koufos to go to a bigger lineup, not smaller one. Sorry, but Ujiri’s extension doomed us to three more mediocre playoffs unless the Nuggets pull off another trade that gets them somene who can coach the team on the court (like Chauncey). I still wish we would have kept C Bill instead of Felton.

  • Andrew

    So, moving forward, I really like the team’s makeup. i honestly think the Nuggs just need to develop their 7 footers, and get in a big PF that can rebound and defend the low post, and a long 2/3 that can defend like their life depends on it. I think everyone agrees on what we want to do with our players (with the possible exception of JR and Felton):

    Keep: Nene, Ty Law, AAA, Mozilla, Koufos.
    Probably Keep (but trade if necessary/able to get better): K Mart, Birdman, JR, Forbes.
    Trade: Chandler, Felton, Harrington and Ely (if anybody reallt wants them).

  • Andrew

    One last thing. That last game, at the end when JR had his shot blocked by Durant. Durant was flying through the air before JR even went to put the shot up, and all I could think was that C Bill would have either pump faked him and then swished the three, or jumped up and into him for the three free throws and even possibly a made three and one.
    If the Nuggets had somehow been able to keep C Bill instead of trading him for Felton, they would have beaten OKC in the series, I think with ease, and might even be looked upon as a favorite right now.

    • kalen

      I’m glad somebody else feels the same way about Billups as I. The only problem I saw was how Ty would developed under him. I don’t know if he ever would have got the chance to start with Billups here.

      • Andrew

        Kalen, it may be too late to post this on this old article, so I may psot it again on a newer one. I think C Bill would be willing to come back to Denver as the 1B guy that Felton was this year if they gave him a dual role as an assistant coach. I think he is already planning for his life after a player and really wants either a front office or a coaching job. More likely front office, but what better way to get him exposure in management than to have him dip his toes in a coachin role?

  • Warner

    For everyone who’s saying Karl shouldn’t be evaluated on this series because the Thunder were such a tough match up, new players, injuries, etc… I think you’re missing the point. I’m not upset in the least(As far as expectations go) that we lost this series. It’s how we lost the series. Brooks out coached Karl in every single big moment in every single game. Karl has such a deep team and he never truly utilizes it to its full potential. I would have loved to see Nene play more PF with Koufos at C and Gallo/Chandler/Harrington at SF. The Thunder saw first hand what length combined with athleticism can do for a team in the playoffs(Via Lakers) and made moves to create a similar nucleus. NOT ONCE did I see Karl make IN GAME adjustments he just stuck to his guns with playing small ball. Sure free throws and poor officiating was an issue but the biggest issue of all was the friggin’ offensive rebounding by OKC. I can’t think of anything more frustrating to watch as a fan than your team getting beat down on the glass. But maybe that’s just me. He never truly tampered with the lineup and it showed. I assure you when we make it to the playoffs next year we’ll have an entirely new set of reasons to ridicule Karl and I have to much respect for the man to keep beating a dead horse. As for a Smith for Chandler/Felton trade I’d be very opposed to that. I believe we’ll loose JR this off-season and we need to find some type of go-to guy. Smith will take up a lot of cap room.

  • Andrew

    Warner, I agree.