An opportunity knocks

The sentiment that George Karl is a defensive-minded coach is nothing more than a pure fallacy. During his seven-year tenure in Denver not once have the Nuggets ranked better than 18th in the league in defense. Right now, Denver ranks near the bottom of the league in nearly every defensive statistical category imaginable. From points per game, to field goals made, to field goal percentage, to 3-pointers made, to three-point shooting percentage — in each of these areas Denver is no better than 25th in the league.

Against the Thunder, these defensive woes hit an all time low. For the first time in NBA history a team had two players score over 40 with another achieving a triple-double. That triple-double, obtained by Serge Ibaka, was the first in Thunder franchise history, meanwhile, Durant and Westbrook’s scoring totals were the most they’ve had in one game all season. To make matters worse, Durant — a scoring machine — just so happened to get the most points of his young, prolific career against the Nuggets on Sunday, netting 51 in the overtime victory. Combined, Durant and Westbrook scored 91 points which is more than the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, L.A. Lakers and Dallas Mavericks give up to an ENTIRE team on a typical night. It was also the most points any two teammates have combined to score since 1983 when Kiki Vandeweghe and Alex English scored 98 points in the highest scoring NBA game ever — which the Nuggets also lost.

So if defense wins championships, where does that leave the Nuggets? Even if they do obtain a “superstar,” which everyone believes is the magical remedy for the team’s issues, how are the Nuggets ever going to win the title if the coach makes defense an option rather than a top priority?

While winning, Karl’s idiosyncrasies and inefficiencies, are swept under the rug where they remain every year until the Playoffs arrive. The rug is then upended by more disciplined teams (often in a near “sweep”-like fashion) where these issues are left exposed. The team is humiliated and a long off-season ensues in which fans eventually forget about the team’s tragic shortcomings and instead overwrite these archived pangs with an optimism for the upcoming season, as all loyal fans do. But during this recent stretch where the Nuggets have lost 10 of its last 13 games, all the distant, forgotten issues that don’t make their appearance known until early summer are already coming out of hibernation in the middle of winter.

Usually, this reoccurring process in an annual event. In 2012 however, the Nuggets version of “El Nino” has already hit thanks to a barrage of injuries that are exposing Karl for the coach he is. The arguments based solely on health, scheduling and overall “tough stretches” are nothing more but the fan’s mediocre expectations acting as a protective barrier for a custom they’ve come to accept over time. That custom, is losing when it matter most, which has been firmly singed into fan’s brains by enduring a near-decade of the same coaching techniques and methods that Karl employs.

Right now, George Karl is not being the savage general this depleted Nuggets team needs him to be. Instead of coalescing, the team is disbanding, often times thanks to uninspired defense which has no bonding agent to hold it together. When a pick-and-roll comes, that’s a tug at the fabric that is the Nuggets tattered, pieced-together defense. Throw a superstar like Kevin Durant at it, and the entire thing unravels. But perhaps the most surprising part of the invisible cloak of defense, is how easily and quickly it can be reduced to scrap pieces.

Against the Thunder, the Nuggets were up by five points with 31 seconds left in the game. After Daequan Cook missed a shot, Westbrook — standing 6-foot-4 — collected the offensive rebound over Denver’s bigs and threw the ball out to Durant, who then proceeded to smoothly knock down an uncontested 3-pointer with nobody in sight of guarding him. That pulled the game within two. After this, Denver panicked and did nothing on the offensive side of the ball but hoist up a terrible, contested jump shot. Oklahoma City then called a timeout, organized a play and executed it perfectly while George Karl left it up to his worst defenders to handle the duty of stopping Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook — perhaps the most dynamic offensive duo in the NBA —  who were already having career nights.

To nobody’s surprise, the Thunder effortlessly passed the ball into Durant with ease. The 6-9 forward then glided to the basket as a lane — carved out by the Nuggets (Who knew they dug out driving lanes for opponents and not gold!?!) — openly presented itself only to see Durant finish at the rim with a powerful dunk. Meanwhile, the entire Nuggets team stood around watching this spectacular event unfold without any inclination as to what it would take to prevent it from happening. In the end, every one of Denver’s “defenders” got burned… for a lay-up. There was no organization, no communication, no understanding of what was happening, and it was metaphorical in so many ways.

More than anything, this was a microcosm of Denver’s season, its life-cycle with Karl, and thus, it’s fan’s enduring pain. These types of heartbreaking losses are a staple of the “George Karl experience.” Sadly, almost every one can be prevented with more attention to detail, a stronger commitment to defense and above all, vitality. Adversity is the Nuggets’ Kryptonite. When fully healthy, Karl has no problems winning games as long as the roster is stacked, which it has been his entire career, especially in Denver; however, remove just one cog from the machine and the entire structure collapses.

In this sense, what we’ve come to realize, perhaps, is that even the very act of winning is nothing more than a facade with Karl, because no matter what, he’ll never do it unless the circumstances are ideal. Banking off that equation, winning a championship then becomes virtually impossible. He’ll always eventually meet a better coach, encounter more injuries than his opponent or find his team befallen to some sort of inexplicable phenomena that gives him just the right amount of leverage to contrive a semi-logical case for why things didn’t fall his way that time. Most people refer to these as “excuses,” but for Karl, they’re nothing more than a product of his own expectations, which he openly voices to the media.

And so it is in life, that often times we go about as content human beings, one day to the next, without being tempted to reevaluate our disposition. One day however, there will come a point in time where true happiness knocks at the door, and more often than not answering that door requires some amount of risk. It’s understandable, passing up the opportunity to answer that door in the beginning due to nerves, but eventually you’ll come to a crossroads where you must sacrifice your sense of security in order to answer the call and take your degree of satisfaction to the next level. Nuggets fans always sate so staunchly how they “remember what it was like before George Karl arrived” yet never do you hear the stories of the blissful life with “the next Grep Popovich, Phil Jackson or Red Aurbach.”

The question then becomes, “How well can you live with yourself after passing up the opportunity to answer that door one time too many?” The knocking comes every year in May — that’s a given — but the cold chill of February has already brought it out in 2012. This time feels different though. Answering the door this time, feels right.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.

Latest posts by Kalen Deremo (see all)

  • JudenSmithFan

    Frankly, Karl deserved to lose that game. He had a defensive stopper like Julyan Stone rotting away on his bench and still he just sat there and watched Durant and Westbrook abuse the Denver defense over and over and oger. Karl essentially those to lose that game.

  • JudenSmithFan

    er, chose.

  • Trevor

    I wish Denver had a completely opposite style of play. Instead of having basically the best offense and worst defense. I wish they had the worst offense and best defense. That is the type of basketball I like to watch.

  • fluxxe13

    I concur with judan. watching the line up during this game was like ripping my ribs out. when i realized with 4 minutes left that GK was going to leave al harrinton and andre miller in defensively i wanted to cry.

    they needed a defensive stop and instead we get to see durant or wesbrook easily overpower ty lawson or andre miller. al harrington does NOT play good defense, and im not sure why GK thinks otherwise.

    When birdman and koufas were both in in the second quarter and the nugs went on a little run i thought maybe GK realized that he could go big instead of letting a 6’11 sf with a crazy wingspan abuse undersized defenders. how does 11 and 8 in 8 minutes not very explicitly show you came to play that night?

    GK is supposedly a master of rotating his line up, but he single handedly lost the nuggets tonights game and showed hes out of touch with his players.

  • steve

    i dont mind leaving harrington and miller in at the 4 min mark because we do need scoring to win the game. But with 40 seconds left and we are up by 5…that’s when you need to bring in the D guys especially rebounders. Too many times this year we havent secured a rebound in a crucial situation at the end of games. WE HAVE TIMEOUTS LEFT GK!!!!!!! All you gotta do is put in the Def minded guys and then call a timeout and bring Al and Dre back in if you want. With 40 seconds left the lineup should have been stone, AA, Brewer, KK and Bird. i believe Al and Dre were in instead of stone and brewer. Use your 6’6 Defensive minded PG PLEASEEEEEE!!!!!!! Lawson is way to small and Dre sleep walks while he’s on D 90% of the time. Gosh, someone start a FIRE GEORGE KARL website. I’ll freakin join after these past 2 games where we couldn’t close because of TERRRRRRRRIBLE coaching.

  • steve

    this was just posted on hoopshype about GK and melo…

    The Melo-drama, as it was dubbed, clearly bothered Karl before Anthony was traded to the Knicks last February. Martin, however, said Karl’s comments have gone too far. “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 [in the Nuggets’ locker room] 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.”

  • Thomas

    Agree with all comments. I am getting tired of being a fan when you know that the coach will screw it up and lose the game, one way or another, be it a regular season game or the playoffs.

    It’s too easy to outcoach Karl – you don’t have to do too much – he usually does himself in anyway.

    Even a donkey or a monkey can see that a team with Andre and Harrington can’t win (consistently).

    Stop the kidding around. Get us a new coach. You will lose more than just dollars by sticking with him longer – you will lose the players and the fans.

    I for one won’t waste my time to see the pathetic line-up of the second half lose the game in a predictable manner, like last night.

    What on earth did Koufos do last night to be benched in the second half? He had a STELLAR first half. Even the ESPN guys noticed.

    See you when a new coach is in town.

    • Ben

      GK did just get signed for another three year contract, so to all you “he needs to leave now” people, I think you will have to wait at least a season buffer period before he gets tossed.

      Also in a year we went from the Denver Thuggets to a bunch of awkward Euro white boys with some rookies. The team is still trying to identify itself so give it till the end of february (probably the most rigorous schedule I have seen in basketball ever) and then put your blame game on.

      We still have a season to play so don’t drop your loyalties yet…

  • Aaron

    You guys are crazy. . . .flat out. Gk has not had a good year but he’s one of the winningest coaches in the history of the NBA and he’s coached in the finals. There are probably three coaches in the whole league that you take over him, and here’s what this site doesn’t seem to get: WE’RE NOT GETTING ANY OF THOSE GUYS. . . .OR PHIL J.

    When will you guys realize that “wanting a championship” doesn’t mean accepting nothing less than the irrational or holding out for the impossible as it relates to trades, etc. . .Also. .the “blow it up, tank and go for the draft” rarely works and it actually hasn’t worked for the nuggets as recent as in the late 90’s.

    A team like ours which relies on balance and matchups is hit harder by injuries than most. This is a legitimate excuse. Gallo especially does so many things that don’t show up on the stat sheet (such as challenging Durant’s shot). This team was well assembled and will be a beast as the young players grow. Get off the ledge guys. . .and stop accusing everyone else for “settling” while you guys hold out for the ridiculous.

    • tron7

      Totally agree. This site has hit the panic button, big time.

    • monkeyman

      So what if George has so many wins. His average in the playoffs is a dreadful .350 and of course he has no rings to show for his (sic) effort.
      If you are only interested in regular season statistics then yeah, George is an excellent choice. Some of us would aspire to a little more though.

  • Hi

    I’m so sick of the damn negativity you realize we do have injuries to big minute guys not just role players. This team is so young this is the first season Ty has started gotten starter minutes his whole carrear and your on him like he’s started since day one. Our starting PF and SF are out and we were in the game and lost bcuz again our big guys didn’t lock out George Karl can’t do that. Mtypical round all fashion when things go bad it’s all doom and gloom. Myou get on the nuggets for not facing adversity well. The roundhall guys have really negative bad reporting when the nuggets face adversity. Rapid Reaction roundball

    • Hi

      Spell checked version sorry:lI’m so sick of the damn negativity you realize we do have injuries to big minute guys not just role players. This team is so young this is the first season Ty has started gotten starter minutes his whole carrear and your on him like he’s started since day one. Our starting PF and SF are out and we were in the game and lost bcuz again our big guys didn’t block out George Karl can’t do that. In typical roundball fashion when things go bad it’s all doom and gloom. You get on the nuggets for not facing adversity well. The roundball guys have really negative bad reporting when the nuggets face adversity. Rapid Reaction roundball grade: F

      • gk4prez

        Spell checked grade: F

      • steve

        i understand where you are coming from but if you pay attention to the small things, GK fails quite often.

        Like i stated before…Most good coaches know how to use their bench in tight games. GK does not. He keeps the same rotation out there. Why cant he sub in Defensive minded guys and then use a timeout to get his players back in. Everyone knows Al and Dre are pathetic on D. We have lost several games this year because of this. We have not been able to secure rebounds at the end of games. We have had matchup problems at the end of games. Dont get me wrong, the players hold some responsibility as well but GK should get most of the blame because he’s putting these players in awful positions.

        Just like Kalen said…GK has always had enough talent to get to the playoffs but there is a reason why he has this many wins and has only made Conference finals twice in his career. HE GETS OUT-COACHED when it matters.

        • tron7

          Just because you type it in all caps doesn’t make it true. You could nitpick every coaches’ lineups at some point or another but that’s no reason for firing. Personally, I don’t like Miller playing at the end of games but I think it will work itself out

          • steve

            i guess we’ll have this talk again when we lose in 5 games to the clippers in the 1st rd.

  • steve

    btw, hoopshype is stating that Chandler and the Nugs Mgmt are meeting tomorrow with talks about a deal. So, look for more info on a possible chandler deal. let’s hope everything goes smoothly. I’ll be surprised if it does though as i have a feeling Chandler wants some dough.

  • tron7

    The first paragraph does not take pace into account. The Nuggets, I believe, are the fastest paced team in the league. More possessions means more points and makes your defensive ppg look awful. If you would use points per possession you’d see that Denver is right about at league average on defense and above average on offense.

    So, the whole basis for your first paragraph and essentially this whole article is ridiculous. Try to be more careful when you are shoehorning facts to fit your opinions.

    • steve

      Not true tron. We are 19th in pts per 100 possessions. yes, that’s toward the bottom. We are 24th in FG% giving up. tied with the Wiz. We are dead last in giving up 3 pointers.

      Yes we run a fast pace and thats helped us on Offense. We are near the top in alot of Offensive cats. But our Defense is pathetic no matter how you look at it.

      • chris

        The poor field goal percentage defense is part of a concerted scheme where higher percentage looks are sacrificed in favor of forcing more turnovers. That tradeoff is not one I agree with (the best defensive teams in the NBA are typically the ones with the best FG% and eFG% defense), but it’s something that should be acknowledged.

  • gfacekillah8

    you guys do realize that we were missing our two best players last night and a key reserve and we still pushed the second best team in the league to overtime right? i dont understand why everyone on this site freaks out so easily. yes the nuggets have some issues but trust me when we get gallo and nene back full time and mix wilson chandler in this team is going to be a sight to see. i wish that some of the other players would step up bigger in certain moments but our depth is only a strength as long as our starters stay healthy. i know the writers on this site are in love with guys like KK and Faried but the fact of the matter is neither of them would start for 75% of the teams in the league. They are great assets off the bench but not if they have to start. i feel that when the Nuggets get healthy again they will start playing like they did at the beginning of the season. lets not start the doomsday machine yet.

    • steve

      i know what your saying but getting those guys back might not matter that much if we keep playing like this. We could easily lose all of the next 6 games the way we are playing now. The west is 10-11 deep. Most likely we will dip below .500 by the time gallo comes back. Yes it will be great to get everyone back but it’s gonna be an up hill battle just to make the playoffs let alone get out of the 8th seed where we will have to face OKC again. I’d love to knock them off but we aren’t ready just yet to do that. KD, westy and IBaka own us. They always have.

  • J.J.

    Other than a few sane posters, what an unbelievable bunch of armchair coaches you people are, especially Kalen! They should have done this, they should have done that. Everything looks like a better idea in hindsight! What, if Julyan Stone was in the game we would have won? The undrafted rookie who hadn’t played yet in the game at all is going to come off the bench cold and stop the best offensive player in the league on a night when he’s on fire? (within 3 seconds, whistle, foul on Stone!). Brewer guarded him for a while, too – still scored 50. I was actually glad Birdman let him go, rather than stopping him and letting him win the game with a 3 (which you all know he would have done). At least we had a good Ty Lawson shot to win – just bad luck it didn’t go in.

    And Kalen, good God man, what’s with the Karl hate? DO you miss Michael Cooper? Paul Westhead? Dan Issel? The Nuggets are now going through a brutal schedule with 2 (previously 3) of their starting lineup injured, including their one good scoring big man and their leading scorer. He’s not giving excuses – they are playing hard and a couple of breaks, they win this game, and Memphis. Every NBA season is like this – you win some you should lose (Knicks, Sixers) and lose some you should win (Thunder, Grizzlies).

    Durant was unstoppable. What, if he brings in Brewer and Kosta Koufos, those two noted closers, they win the game? The group that was in played well enough to win. If they get one rebound (lucky bounce to the Thunder), make one stop, or make one end of the game leaner, they win. On the road, against the best team in the league, I’ll take that.

    And for everyone who thinks Karl should “draw up plays” at the end of the game, when, exactly, has that EVER worked for anyone? Other than a screen to get the ball inbounded to your desired player, it’s ALWAYS a free-for-all – anything can, and does, happen. And no, the Thunder didn’t win because they drew up a play that had Durant dunking while being chased by Birdman. Birdman was too slow to seal the corner – simple as that. Every team does the same thing – screen to get your best player open, and he takes it from there. Everyone knows the refs swallow their whistles at the end anyway, so “plays” don’t work – the bumping, clutching and grabbing by the defense at the end makes a “play” useless. Lawson got a good, relatively short look at the end, and I’m sorry, the contested three he took before that is on him, not Karl. I’ve noticed much more hesitation in Lawson’s game lately – whether teams are figuring him out, he’s hurt, or what I don’t know, but he is not getting to the rim as much, and letting himself get stopped too often. Though in this case, if he did, Ibaka would have blocked his shot – why does that guy always look like Dwight Howard with a jumper against us?

    I will admit it is nice to have a superstar to finish, which we had in Carmelo. They will almost always get a decent shot off because the other team is so afraid of breathing on the guy for a foul (though Carmelo, for some reason (probably his constant in-game whining) never got the benefit from the refs). But Lawson and Gallinari will eventually get to, or close to, that position, and they have other guys who can win games, too (see Afflalo last year, or even Harrington). Nuggets will right the ship, finish 5th or 6th, and make some noise in the playoffs (presuming a return to health and the addition of Chandler). Karl is simply not why they are losing games.

    Every team wins and loses close games during the year – even those teams with Kobe, Dirk or Durant. Maybe they win a bit more often, but superstars miss shots, too. Nuggets just need health, a few wins, confidence, and they are back again.

    All that said, I agree that we are not a threat to win a title right now, and to the extent that is our goal, that is troubling. However, if a couple players step up just a little, we could be, and we are a hell of a lot closer than all but about 7-8 teams. That’s good enough for me at this point. We tried the superstar route and it didn’t work, and let’s remember that Durant, Lebron, Dwight, Nash, and before last year, Dirk, haven’t won titles either. Just too tough a league. We have a really good team that needs to get over one or two hurdles, and they’ll be in the mix.

    • Dubz

      I couldn’t disagree with you more. Yes, it’s easy to critique a head coach in retrospect but I’m assuming most of us who are criticizing Karl didn’t approve of the lineups as the game was in play. Especially leaving Miller in the game when we needed one final stop. Put in Brewer to guard Durant and place Afflalo on Westbrook. If we lose with those two guys, then I’ll accept that OKC was just the better team, but Karl doesn’t even put in his best players for situations like this. It happens EVERY SINGLE GAME. As for drawing up plays, again EVERY SINGLE GOOD TEAM has a go to play at the end of games. San Antonio, Boston, Chicago, Miami, LA, and OKC all have fantastic coaches who understand situational basketball and run great plays at the end of games. Not to mention they play great defense. All of those teams are perennial contenders. All of them. Drawn up plays are a NECESSITY IN THE PLAYOFFS. So is defense, and Karl doesn’t address either one.

    • steve

      You say “we tried the superstar route and it didnt work”…well we also tried the George Karl route for all these years and guess what, IT ISN’T WORKING!

      I do firmly believe alot of this is put on GK. He puts the players on the floor that arent succeeding at the end of games. If dre and al cant defend for the first 47 minutes, how will they the last minute during a crucial time? You need to put your best defenders on the floor. Too many times we havent secured a rebound whether it was a “lucky” bounce or not.

      btw, yes you can draw plays. Are you that blind to watch what really goes on? Just getting the ball to your best player isn’t all that goes on. Take the grizzlies the other night for example…Gay did this 2 games in a row and tony allen commented on the play call after the warriors game. Gay is suppose to shoot the ball with 3 seconds left. 1 player off the weak side goes up for the rebound for the tip in. 1st night it was cunningham vs US and 2nd night it was tony allen vs GSW. Both times rudy missed it but the tip in was successful all because they know most teams think the game is over when the ball leaves gay’s hand but there is actually a second left for the tip. These are the things GK doesnt do…or do well. Good coach, but not a great coach and i think he’s overstayed his welcome in Denver.

      • TskitishVillain

        Going into this year did anyone think this team was a title contender? The hot play to begin the year really changed some minds, but there were always inherent flaws with the way the team was structured. The lack of a solid post game and streaky outside shooting has hindered the potential to run a more conventional offense. Last night, Cory Brewer shot the ball 14 times. Unless, all 14 of those shots were layups or wide open looks there is absolutely no excuse for him to put up that many shots. But, is that George Karl’s fault? No. Without Gallinari and Nene, we have to use a rotation without a real scorer.

        To disregard the injuries and lack of practice time for a team comprised of many new additions and rookies is very shortsighted. With that, there are bound to be mistakes on both sides of the ball. Whether it is slow rotations or poor offensive movement. The last two games are generally indictment of the shortened season and the structure of the team. The absence of practice time and the astounding inconsistency of just about every Nugget game in and game out has left Karl with difficult line up rotations.

        To assume that Stone would have done a better job on Westbrook misses the point of how the defense was structured. Even with how many shots Westbrook took, very few were layups from a half court set-up. The only way to defend him is to give up the long 2 and hope for a miss. Well, last night that clearly didn’t happen. As for Durant, we had our best defender (Brewer) on him most of the game but Durant’s length negated anything Brewer tried to do. I mean he generally caught the ball far from the hoop, and put up shots that would be difficult for lesser players. To double Durant so far from the basket will lead to a mad scrimmage to rotate and likely end in more dunks for Perk or Ibaka.

        If Lawson makes that last shot which was a pretty good look, then we talk about how we got OKC to play at our tempo, and pulled off a gritty win despite being shorthanded. The Nuggets put up 72 points in the paint, even with Ibaka Flocka Flame rejecting shots like they were parole requests. Without someone like Nene to keep him more honest, he had the freedom to roam the paint and wait for the guards to go up.

        • steve

          yes we started out 15-8 or something like that. I honestly believe we would have been 18-5 with a better coach. Now we are 17-15 and think we should be 21-11ish. Yes we have had injuries that have hurt us. This doesnt explain the collapses in game or end of games because of poor game management

          1 on 1 isnt the way to defend westy and KD at the end of the game. You can’t let those 2 beat you. Let one of the others do it. Just like with 40 seconds left we forced Cook into a 3 in the corner WHICH HE MISSED but guess what, we couldnt secure a rebound and bounced out to KD for a 3. We play the exact same D the entire game. No changes. No zone. No hard double teams. etc. this is what everyone is talking about. GK doesnt manage the games well when it’s right there for the taking. everyone knows what he is going to do because this is all he ever does. Teams adjust, WE DONT. A good example would in baseball … a catcher telling the batter that a fastball is coming dead center. All of GK moves are telegraphed. I cant stand it.

    • gk4prez

      Stone was in the very next game at the end and the Nuggets won. lol

  • Dubz

    I wish George would step down as head coach and serve a role where he’s closer to being a “consultant” for Masai. I truly believe Karl has been the major reason for Denver having as much talent on their roster for the last 8 years as anyone else in the league. He also seems to find these cast off players every year and turns them into desirable role players. HOWEVER, he’s probably the worst in game head coach I’ve watched in my 15+ years of watching the NBA. He refuses to adapt his strategy according to game situations and he has no consistent rotation whatsoever. Frankly, at this point, if he doesn’t step down he should be fired but I’d rather it not have to get to that point.

    • monkeyman

      Actually, George has stated many times that he has nothing to do with getting new players via trade or draft. He also has nothing to do with getting rid of players.

      So yeah, brilliant idea to bring him in as a consultant to Masai. This would ensure Masai does a shitty job too.

  • Jesse Mason

    “During his seven-year tenure in Denver not once have the Nuggets ranked better than 18th in the league in defense.”

    This is not even close to true. If you look at DRTG (the only real way to look at defense, since it adjusts for pace), the Nuggets had almost exactly league-average defenses in points per possession the last two full seasons, and the 8th- and 10th-ranked defenses the seasons before those. This year, the defense IS ranked 18th, but you should get your facts right.

    “Right now, Denver ranks near the bottom of the league in nearly every defensive statistical category imaginable.”

    Of the “four factors,” Denver is quite bad in the most important one (eFG%) and very good in the other three: sixth in opponent turnovers, fifth in defensive rebounding, and third in opponent FT/FGA.

    Were there things I would have done differently at the end of regulation? Sure. But for most of the game, what I saw was Durant and Westbrook hitting jump shots. The best plan against Durant and Westbrook is… force them to take jump shots. Some games, they’ll just make most of them, and one has to be intelligent enough to shrug and say, “sometimes that happens” instead of being so results-oriented.

    Durant went 5/6 from three, and Westbrook went 3/6. Durant is a fine three-point shooter, sure, but 5/6? He can’t make 5/6 when he’s in a three-point shooting contest. And our defense made Westbrook take six threes? That’s fantastic, he’s worse than 30% from out there.

    Our team is missing two of our three best players, on the road against the best team in the conference, the opposing team is perfectly healthy and is our nightmare matchup in terms of positions, the refs made a lot of questionable calls in their favor, their superstars had to make a million consecutive jump shots, and it was STILL tied at the end of regulation. So we should fire the coach… why?

    • steve

      because history shows we’ll lose in the 1st rd of the playoffs again when it matters most.

      I’m all for staying with GK for the rest of the year, even though i’ll admit firing him wouldnt be the worst decision ever. But if we lose in the 1st rd again, he needs to be seriously looked at. How many more years are we going to go with the same results year in and year out?

    • bayesk

      a reasonable argument supported by actual statistical evidence. nicely done, jm. too little of that here sometimes, though i always appreciate the passion of all the commenters. (i’m a CO kid stuck in Lexington, KY – where there’s only one game in town and any mention of the NBA gets you barely intelligible vitriol. i’ll gladly read any and all nuggets-related stories, supporters and critics alike.)

      it was a tough loss, but come on. OT, on the road, some dubious calls, three opposing players have season/career nights. we’re missing our leading scorer, interior foundation, and a sometimes-effective (but lately maddeningly ineffective) key bench guy. it would have been great to take this game, especially after the way the Memphis game ended, but i’m not too upset about the performances by the players.
      but yeah, i gotta agree with many on here in saying that our coach never, ever seems to make adjustments, and his rotations are mystifying.
      imagine being Faried, or Koufos, or any of the non-favorites. do they have any idea where they stand? why they play 22 minutes one game, then 6 the next? KK had 13 and 9 in 13 minutes. does even GK have a rationale for not reinserting him? i wonder…

      as far as Karl… I wouldn’t mind if he stayed through this season, i suppose. but i think i’d rather see him get canned, or just resign (and another 1st round exit should definitely show him the door). Ujiri’s not perfect; we’ll just call that extension his first mistake as GM.

    • Kalen

      I should be more specific. When I say “defense” I’m strictly referring to opponents points per game. That’s how I’ve always read it, heard it and been taught. The term “defense” equals opponents points per game. I will be more clear about that from here on out.

      If you’d like to dissect my quotes word for word and formulate opposing arguments, that’s fine, but I could easily do the same for you. Saying “That is not even close to true” and “[DRTG] is the only real way to look at defense” are also, conversely, not entirely true either. You even admit yourself that Denver is the worst in the most important category of DRTG, while currently being ranked 18th overall. Pointing to turnovers, defensive rebounding and opponents free throw attempts is not exactly the strongest of arguments if you’re trying to convince me Denver is a good defensive team.

      In the end the scoreboard is the only thing that matters, not some highly complicated statistical measuring stick that discounts its fair share of factors. And still, the fact remains: Running an uptempo offense is no excuse to allow the same amount of points per game in return. Miami, San Antonio, Chicago, Portland — these are all teams who operate high octane offenses ranked in the Top 10 yet none of them rank in the bottom half of the league in opponents points per game like the Nuggets do.

      To clarify, I’m not demanding Karl’s head or even that he be fired. If I felt that way, believe me, I’d say it. All I’m trying to point out in this article is the obvious, which is that Karl’s tenure in Denver has been the same story, repeated every year. There’s always an excuse, a first-round playoff loss, not enough commitment to defense, low expectations and eventually an uprising of fans who want him canned. Look at the comments in this blog for crying out loud! People are tired of it, I’m tired of it and there’s damn good reasoning behind it. This isn’t just one awful losing stretch where people are freaking out for no reason, this is the culmination of botched lineups, ill-prepared players and blown defensive assignments. All I did was decide, after another frustrating loss, to make a point of it — that’s all. The funny thing is, people get on us for overreacting, yet they do the exact same thing in the comments section all the time!

      All that said, I do want to wait and see what happens this year in the Playoffs before possibly evaluating Karl for the last time. In my eyes, this team has a LOT of talent, superstar or not. Even with this recent stretch, I see no reason why the Nuggets shouldn’t be able to pull together and go on a run that will put them back into the top five or so slots of the Western Conference standings. This team HAS to show heart come playoff time, no matter who the opponent, no matter what type of home court advantage they have or do not have — something has to give this year. No more sweeps, one-and-dones, embarrassing blowouts — it’s time to put up or shut up. Nuggets fans have come to believe that winning a playoff series without home-court advantage is impossible, but that’s only because that’s the type of culture Karl breeds. This team is just too talented to roll over and die, and unless something different happens in the playoffs this time around, I’m sure we’ll be right back here in May having this exact conversation. That was my point with the article, that is what I’m trying to say.

      • NuggFan forLife

        The way you said it Kalen is absolutely right. The way Mason said it is just foolish enough to avoid how bad Denver defends. The right way to defend is MOVING YOUR FEET and CONTEST ANY SHOT not gambling yourself for steals to go on the break. This was very clear when we faced the Jazz in the ’10 playoffs, were we had a lot of Techs because we were so greedy of stealing the ball we gave up a lot of not-needed fouls. In defense, the first priority is moving your feet, let the opponent burn some secs, then make a CONTESTED shot. Stealing or forcing TOs should be just an option.

      • Michael

        That’s just some straight unintelligent ignorance-glorifying george w. bush type of sheet there Kalen. Points per game is a virtually worthless statistic. Them’s just facts.

        You can say “The term ‘defense’ equals opponents points per game” and I can say “The term ‘pigeonhead’ equals ‘nobel prize in economic science” but that don’t make it true.

        The Nugs may suck on D this year, but they haven’t even been close to sucking on D the way you paint the past seasons.

    • tron7

      Great comment. Thanks for pointing out all of the questionable stats used.

  • Amel

    Karl isn’t a bad coach, he’s actually a very good one. But he’s fucking stubborn, it’s just unreal. He has to realize some things, in order to make this team better. It’s unacceptable to lose games always the same way…

  • NuggFan forLife

    Karl is a winning coach but is never a playoff-type of guy. He coached the ’96 Sonics team that went to the Finals, but that was only it. Haven’t you remembered that HE was also the coach of the ’94 Sonics team that went first in the league AND GOT UPSET HISTORICALLY by OUR NUGGETS??? RMC, you deserve an A+ for exploiting what this team’s deficiencies are. The humiliating season of Karl proves that he is only a reg. season coach.

  • NuggFan forLife

    Oh yes! That playoff upset in ’94 was just a string of Jekyll-and-Hyde-type of coaching he has. Here are some bad losses I remembered:
    – ’08-’09 reg. season, road loss to Kings
    – ’09-’10 reg. season, home loss to T’Wolves
    – ’09-’10 reg. season, home loss to Sixers
    – ’09-’10 reg. season, road loss to Pacers
    – ’09-’10 reg. season, road loss to Wizards
    – ’10-’11 reg. season, home loss to Sixers
    – ’10-’11 reg. season, road loss to Kings
    – ’10-’11 reg. season, home loss to Rockets
    – ’10-’11 reg. season, road loss to Clippers (twice)
    – ’11-’12 reg. season, home loss to Hornets

    *As you see, he is the worst 1000-win coach to date. He doesn’t change his style come playoff time. He sometimes sleep on bad teams which led to bad losses. There’s a reason to fire him!

  • Dubz

    I’d like to clarify. I would definitely like for Karl’s reign in Denver to end (at HC at least), I’m definitely not calling for his head in the middle of the season. Wait out the year, let him develop some young guys and then take his job.

  • chronosynclastic infundibula

    Excellent post!!!!!!! I feel your pain Kalen! I can’t stomach the cycle any longer either. I like GK as a person and believe under the right circumstances he can be a formidable coach, but he has gotten way too comfortable and complacent here in Denver. What bothers me most is that I am sick and tired of this culture of excuses. True leaders man up and take the blame even when its not their fault. Life will go on after Karl, people must realize this.