End of an era: One fan’s struggle to embrace a Hall of Fame coach

I can’t lie. I’ve thought about writing this article for years. Years. After each futile, heartless, disappointing exit in the first round of the playoffs, I was so ready to write this article that I couldn’t sleep. This year was no different. This year I wanted it just as bad as I have for the last several years. And yet, here it is, less than a week since Karl was let go, and I’m not sure I even want to write it anymore.

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Roundball Roundtable: On Ujiri’s departure

Masai Ujiri leaving the Denver Nuggets has the potential to be one of the most devastating franchise decisions the Kroenke family has ever made. Conversely, the Nuggets might hire the next Masai Ujiri and be just fine. Either way, the decision to let him speak with the Raptors and ultimately sign with his former Canadian squad said something about the Nuggets as a franchise. It said something about the Kroenkes and it said something about the order of the Nuggets’ priorities. Our writers have a few ideas about what that something is, which we’ve laid out below in our latest Roundball Roundtable.

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Rapid Reaction: Los Angeles Clippers 112, Denver Nuggets 100

Denver Nuggets 100 Final

Recap | Box Score

112 Los Angeles Clippers
Danilo Gallinari, SF 24 MIN | 1-10 FG | 5-5 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 7 PTS | +3

Gallo has been about as inconsistent as you can be to start the season. In seven of the last 10 games he’s scored under 10 points four times and over 20 three times. His shooting stroke seems to be the root of his problems. When he’s hitting shots, everything is great; when he’s not, he’s virtually useless. Gallo is so talented in so many ways, which makes it all the more frustrating seeing him pigeonhole himself into a one-dimensional shooter’s role.

Kenneth Faried, SF 33 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -4

Faried is another enigma on the season. He didn’t have a bad game but he started off on pace to have an epic one — then it was as if his motor ran out of gas in only five minutes time. This is becoming quite the trend with Faried. His energy just isn’t what it was most of last year.

Kosta Koufos, C 27 MIN | 8-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | -4

Koufos was the Nuggets’ best player. That’s basically all you need to know to figure out how this game ended. He’s been steadily improving throughout the year and is now legitimately giving McGee a run for his money as to who’s the best center on the team. His defense and toughness were especially impressive against the Clippers.

Ty Lawson, PG 32 MIN | 5-11 FG | 4-6 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 15 PTS | -8

It’s hard to dock Lawson too much as he was one of the only players actually trying to make something happen. His passes need to be more precise but other than that he was pretty solid.

Andre Iguodala, SG 27 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -1

I still can’t figure this one out. Anybody know what the deal is with Iguodala? Please, share your secret because right now I’m dumbfounded. I knew Nuggets fans overvalued him from the start but I really thought he’d be a lot more impressive than what he’s shown thus far. Against the Clippers he was nearly lifeless. His nine points were a result of easy fast-break points, and that’s about all he did.

Anthony Randolph, PF 4 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +6

He’s clearly talented. He’s played well this season and had a few nice buckets against the Clippers.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 17 MIN | 7-9 FG | 0-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | -4

Hamilton was the second best player tonight (maybe the best?) and tied Koufos for the team lead in points despite having played only 17 minutes. If this was not a “wake up” game for Karl and the rest of his teammates, then I don’t know what is. Hamilton played with confidence against the Clippers and it showed. Not only was he scoring at a rate which none of his teammates could match, but his decision-making and vision were in top form. He made some nice passes and didn’t make the “rookie” mistakes he’s been known to fall victim to. The fact is: On nights like this, when nobody is stepping up to score, Hamilton is a great option to play 30-plus minutes because scoring is all he knows.

Quincy Miller, SF 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | +6

Miller had a few nice dishes and played good defense. As always, I’d love to see what he could do with a few games of solid playing time.

Corey Brewer, SF 21 MIN | 0-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 2 PTS | -29

Brewer was just not on. He’ll have games like this every now and then where he’s totally MIA.

Timofey Mozgov, C 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +6

Mozgov got hit in the face with the ball because he couldn’t handle the speed of a pass. That’s all I remember from his run.

JaVale McGee, C 19 MIN | 4-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | -23

The stats don’t tell just how frustrating this game was from a fan’s standpoint. McGee made numerous decisions (mostly passes) where I couldn’t even begin to understand what he was trying to do. He also had several incredible blocks and nice post-ups, but I could not escape how bad his decisions were on this night.

Andre Miller, PG 23 MIN | 4-9 FG | 4-5 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 12 PTS | -14

Miller started off the game great with lots of aggressions but seemed to fade as it went on. Still, it’s nice having someone who gets up for big games on a consistent basis.

Evan Fournier, SG 4 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +6

Fournier was impressive as usual. Not a lot of time, but he made the most of it.

George Karl

Many players received bad grades tonight so it doesn’t make much sense to reward Karl. He’s the one who devises this skewed game-plan of being satisfied with playing like crap on the road as long as you can win most of your home games. While the Nuggets have had a tough road schedule, I still don’t understand how a team this deep and talented can be happy with a 7-13 road record. On a different (but similar) note, I ran into my old high school soccer coach a few days ago and he said he hates watching the Nuggets because they always have an excuse to lose. While the Clippers are on one hell of a tear these days, I can’t help but think Karl deemed this loss as considered “OK.”

#NuggetsRank No. 3: Danilo Gallinari

After a lengthy delay, coming in at number three in our #NuggetsRank series is starting small forward Danilo Gallinari. Despite possessing perhaps the best combination of skill and athleticism on the Nuggets’ entire roster, Gallo trailed behind the top two in our #NuggetsRank voting and ends up as the popular pick for third-best player on the team.
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Rapid Reaction: Orlando Magic 102, Denver Nuggets 89

Denver Nuggets 89 FinalRecap | Box Score 102 Orlando Magic
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 5-14 FG | 11-14 FT | 8 REB | 4 AST | 23 PTS | -3

Gallo was about the only player on the Nuggets roster who was looking to be aggressive. He also made an effort to play hard, which can’t be said for most of his teammates. This is the type of Gallo the Nuggets need in order to be a real threat in the West.

Kenneth Faried, SF 20 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -14

What the hell is going on with Faried? For the second game in a row he played more of a complimentary role than that of the starter he truly is. His head is down. He’s not even trying to rebound. Something is clearly going on between the ears because this is not the fun-loving, energetic Faried we’ve come to know.

Kosta Koufos, C 27 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-3 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS | +8

Koufos was just kind of there tonight. He didn’t make his presence known at all, especially on the glass like we’ve become accustomed to in the preseason. If he’s going to play this much he needs to turn up his level of aggressiveness in a major way.

Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 6-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 7 AST | 12 PTS | -13

The energy was there tonight for Lawson. He was trying to make things happen; they just weren’t. There’s a certain amount of blame that should be put on his shoulders, but at this point, it’s nothing compared to what his teammates need to be shouldering.

Andre Iguodala, SG 36 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 5 AST | 9 PTS | -10

I’m a little bit confused as to what Iguodala’s role is on this team right now. People were so excited about landing him, but the fact is, Denver’s most pressing need has always been a top dog who can get buckets when the chips are down — which is perhaps why Al Harrington had such a successful season last year. Iguodala just isn’t that type of guy, which is a bit disconcerting if you ask me.

Corey Brewer, SF 24 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -11

Corey Brewer: Great energy guy; not a great leading-role type of guy. The reason he bounced around so much after being drafted as a top 10 player in Minnesota is because his role has always been in question. But after winning a title with the Mavericks it became clear: great energy guy; not a great leading-role guy. Karl’s trying to make him the latter. Enough said.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 3 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-4 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +4

I do not know why Jordan Hamilton isn’t seeing more time. I really don’t. Is there a reason? Is it just because he’s young? The only thing I can think of is that he’s sometimes a little reckless with his shot attempts. But at this point, he’s the perfect remedy for what the Nuggets are missing. Even if he takes several bad shots, at least he’ll be out there trying to make things happen. Plus, is there any doubt he won’t get at least 15 points if you give him ample playing time?

JaVale McGee, C 11 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | -9

Another dumbfounding stat line, highlighted mostly by the 11 minutes played number. You can’t do anything in 11 minutes. It was the same story last game when Hamilton started buy only played a little over 10 minutes. It’s just not enough time to do anything.

Andre Miller, PG 21 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 11 PTS | -10

I thought Miller was the other guy out there hustling, playing smart and playing good basketball in general. Even on defense he’s turned up the heat, which is a definite improvement from last year.

Wilson Chandler, SG 19 MIN | 3-10 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | -4

Chandler is not playing in the flow of the offense right now. He’s lost. He doesn’t know when to attack and where, or how, for that matter. Everything he’s doing is off. In time he will improve but until then he should step it up on defense to make up for his wavering offensive skills.

Evan Fournier, SG 7 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -3

Again, can’t say much here. It would have been nice to see him knock down a shot but he was playing in garbage time anyways.

When Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari beat the Denver Nuggets [VIDEO]

Shortly after the big trade last August, we took a look back at a game in which Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller had helped the Philadelphia 76ers defeat the Denver Nuggets. Now it’s time for a similar retrospective of a game from a period when Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari were playing some of the best basketball of their careers: the first half of the 2010-11 season. The date was December 12, 2010, and the New York Knicks beat the Nuggets 129-125 just months before the Carmelo Anthony trade. (more…)

#NuggetsRank No. 6: Andre Miller

Landing at the No. 6 spot in our #NuggetsRank series is point guard Andre Miller, consummate professional, tireless workhorse, and by many accounts George Karl’s favorite player on the team. Last season Miller, along with Al Harrington, assumed a role of veteran leadership to help guide Denver’s young roster to a .576 record and sixth seed in the Western Conference. Playing all 66 games in the lockout-shortened season, he continued to lead the league in fewest missed games among players with 10+ seasons with an amazingly low six DNPs in 13 years in the NBA. (more…)

Taking the helm: Ty Lawson alone should be Nuggets team captain

Leadership is getting players to believe in you. If you tell a teammate you’re ready to play as tough as you’re able to, you’d better go out there and do it… Leadership is diving for a loose ball, getting the crowd involved, getting other players involved. It’s being able to take it as well as dish it out. That’s the only way you’re going to get respect from the players.

–Larry Bird

So many games come down to who’s going to make plays. Who’s the guy who’s going to take that responsibility. So the leaders of this team are going to be the ones who take responsibility in winning. It’s not the responsibility of putting numbers on the board, it’s the responsibility of winning.

–George Karl

After the Denver Nuggets traded away Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington to land Andre Iguodala, the conventional wisdom dictated that while this move would bolster Denver’s perimeter defense, its 3-point shooting, and by extension its offense as a whole, would take a hit (an issue which Charlie deftly analyzes in his most recent post). Most of the buzz centered around whether, on the balance, this was an upgrade in basketball terms that would propel the Nuggets to the next level.

Less examined, however, is the fact that in trading Afflalo Denver lost its team captain, and in trading Harrington lost the player who by all appearances was the team’s true leader in the locker room. On the surface this might be considered an easily dismissible issue. Iguodala, after all, was not only team captain of the Philadelphia 76ers, most recently leading them to the Eastern Conference semifinals, but also boasting additional leadership credentials as an All-Star and Olympian. Leaders out, leader in, plug-and-play and they’re ready to roll. Simple enough.

Except that it’s not. (more…)

Minutes projections for the Nuggets: Karl will lean heavily on his heavies

“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”

Many Nuggets fans will be familiar with the oft uttered refrain from Steve Hess, assistant coach in charge of strength and conditioning. It has become a meme which flows freely through the team’s culture, often surfacing in players’ post-workout tweets as what seems to be a slogan for the principle to which Denver is dedicated: getting better.

The Nuggets organization has firmly dedicated itself to a course in which, while engaging in a process of ongoing reconstruction following the Carmelo Anthony trade, will prioritize staying relevant and continuing to improve in an increasingly competitive Western Conference.

This team won’t be tanking. The recent acquisition of Andre Iguodala, even at the cost of fan favorite Arron Afflalo and coach favorite Al Harrington, represents how strong the Nuggets’ commitment to winning truly is. The players want to win. The organization as a whole wants to win.

There is no doubt, too, that head coach George Karl wants to win. And this will be enormously important in his decision making as he determines how his player rotations settle down through the 2012-13 season, and which players get the lion’s share of the sparse minutes which will be all too precious on his very deep roster. (more…)

5-on-5: Iguodala trade talk

With a new contributor, Roundball Mining Company will likely be doing more 5-on-5 pieces in the coming days. This means more opportunities for you, the reader, to participate by being featured as the fifth analyst in this series of articles, however this can only be achieved by following each of us on Twitter. In our first of many new 5-on-5s we highlight, what else, but the Andre Iguodala trade. T.J. McBride joins us this time around, but don’t let that stop you from posting your answers to these five questions in the comments section below!
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Trade details

Many readers have asked, specifically, what the Nuggets gave up and received in Friday’s trade. Though I still can’t find a single article that confirms all aspects of the trade, I have been able to gather bits and pieces from various sources across the Internet. Here are my findings:

Received: Andre Iguodala

Sent: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, a 2013 second-round draft pick (via Golden State) and a 2014 first-round draft pick (either Denver’s own or via New York)

Both of the picks sent to Orlando may end up being ones the Nuggets obtained from New York in the Carmelo Anthony trade. The 2013 second-round pick is from Golden State while the 2014 first-round pick will either be Denver’s own, or New York’s. According to CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger, the 2014 first-round pick conveyed to Orlando will be the least desirable of the Nuggets two picks that year.

Looking towards the future, the Nuggets now have two picks in the 2013 NBA Draft: their own first rounder and a second-round, top-40 protected selection from the Portland Trailblazers. Denver’s own second-round pick is conveyed to the Phoenix Suns and is also top-40 protected. Assuming the Nuggets re-sign Ty Lawson, they will then have three roster openings from the expiring contracts of Julyan Stone, Timofey Mozgov and Corey Brewer. If the Nuggets retain both picks they will then be left with one open roster spot to sign a free agent, however given Masai Ujiri’s penchant for perpetual activity, there’s a good chance the team’s current roster and draft-pick situation will change yet again.

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A new hope for the Nuggets perimeter defense

One cold hard truth the Nuggets were going to have to reckon with sooner or later was the fact that last season their perimeter defense was among the worst – if not the worst – in the league. Although their 103.4 team defensive efficiency rating was a lower-middling 19th in the league, a deeper dig into the numbers confirms what any Nuggets fan who has been paying attention already knows: All season long, opponents drained 3-pointers at will.

The opponent shot location statistics at HoopData.com reveal that Denver put together a respectable interior defense. The Nuggets were 8th best in the league in defending at-rim shots, as their opponents made 61.6 percent of their attempts. Holding steady in 8th place at short range, Denver held its opponents to a percentage of 36.2. Mid-range defense found them faring even better, 5th best with opponents shooting 35.6 percent. But 15 feet out from the basket is where the good news abruptly ends.

In both long range 2-point and in 3-point shooting, the Nuggets were dead last in the league, allowing a long-two field goal percentage of 41.4 and an effective field goal percentage of 57.5 from beyond the arc. None of this should come as a surprise (more…)

More Analysis on the Andre Igoudala Trade

First of all, what was Orlando thinking?  The centerpiece of the long anticipated Dwight Howard trade ends up being Arron Afflalo?  Yikes.  Thanks to Orlando’s generosity the three other teams involved in the reported four team deal that will be finalized later today all received much more than they gave.  Obviously the Lakers are thrilled with Bynum for Howard.  Philly has to be ecstatic to get Bynum for Igoudala, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless.  Denver may not have made out quite as well as those two teams have, but this trade is a slam dunk for the Nuggets.

There are several different aspects of this trade to look at so let’s dive in.

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Five initial reactions to the Andre Iguodala trade

As it stands, I’m at my computer early Friday morning. Yesterday the Nuggets were involved in trade talks that included four teams, with Dwight Howard — most notably — going to the Lakers and Andre Iguodala being shipped to Denver. I hesitated to make anything of it, because let’s face it, we’ve been down this road before. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a Dwight Howard trade rumor this summer I’d have a lot of nickels. However, this time it appears to be for real. According to ESPN.com the Nuggets will receive Andre Iguodala in return for Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and a future first-round selection in the NBA Draft. If this is true — which it looks to be — here are five initial observations from the Nuggets point of view…

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Nuggets Reportedly Involved in Howard Trade Talks

When the news of a potential four team trade that would send Dwight Howard to Los Angeles involving the Denver Nuggets first surfaced this afternoon, I was skeptical.  Generally when a rumor involving the Nuggets gets out, it is a sure sign that the Nuggets have moved on and the trade is not happening.  Of course, my interest was piqued due to the fact the Nuggets were reportedly pursuing Andre Igoudala, the one player I have gone on record coveting.  Even so, I was not going to allow myself to get too excited.

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