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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Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 117 vs Knicks 94

The Nuggets spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s return to Denver with a blowout win.  ‘Melo left the game with a sore knee and spent some time in the locker room, inspiring chants of “where is Melo” from the crowd.

New York Knicks 94 Final

Recap | Box Score

117 Denver Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari, SF 25 MIN | 4-13 FG | 7-7 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +17

Gallinari looked really good when he went to the rim or got to the line, and really awful shooting jumpers. He played great defense on Carmelo Anthony for part of the first quarter, and later forced two turnovers by drawing offensive fouls away from the ball.

Kenneth Faried, SF 25 MIN | 4-10 FG | 3-6 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +28

Faried started out the game taking several jump shots. He eventually settled down and started taking shots closer to the rim, but missed several tip tries. He outhustled the Knicks for several offensive rebounds, particularly after Tyson Chandler left the game.

Kosta Koufos, C 18 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-1 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +13

It seems like every game I grade, I end up writing something like “Koufos was quietly effective”. He continues to play fundamental basketball with good positioning, and make the most of his opportunities.

Ty Lawson, PG 26 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +11

Ty was aggressive getting into the paint all night, but had a bit of trouble finishing over Tyson Chandler. His shot was falling from the outside and his passing was crisp. He would likely have finished with a double double if Gallinari’s shot had been falling.

Andre Iguodala, SG 33 MIN | 5-7 FG | 2-6 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 14 PTS | +32

Igoudala has emerged as a solid secondary playmaker for the Nuggets, setting up a ton of easy scores. Tonight he tried to do a little too much and forced several passes into traffic. He was hitting his own shots from everywhere except the free throw line. He had a few spectacular defensive sequences in the second half.

Anthony Randolph, PF 3 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -1

Inconclusive.

Jordan Hamilton, SF 12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -5

On one late sequence, Hamilton missed a jumper that led to a Knicks fast break off the long rebound, and then got downcourt in time to swat James White’s layup attempt into the stands. His shot wasn’t falling, but he was making good contributions in other parts of the game.

Corey Brewer, SF 21 MIN | 3-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +6

Brewer usually provides the Nuggets with great energy, but tonight the starters had all the energy they needed, and he seemed a step slow by comparison. He did a little bit of everything, but nothing particularly well.

Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -2

Mozgov was involved in two highlights tonight: a nice two handed dunk, and a Prigioni pass between his legs that led to a Knicks layup.

JaVale McGee, C 12 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -5

In a game where the Nuggets were completely dominant in the paint, and the Knicks’ only center left with an injury, the athletic seven footer decided to take a 16 foot jumper that missed everything. He also had one nice block and a layup from freakishly far away from the basket. It was a very inconsistent game overall.

Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +13

Andre Miller surprised me by playing fantastic defense for most of his first half minutes. He was also on target with his passing.

Evan Fournier, SG 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -2

Fournier looks completely lost on the defensive end of the court, and too often gets caught needing to foul. He stepped up offensively when tacos seemed to be in doubt, setting up Chandler for a three point play and scoring five of his own to push the Nuggets over the 110 point mark.

Wilson Chandler, SG 25 MIN | 9-12 FG | 5-8 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | +10

Wilson Chandler spent most of the night taking advantage of the Knicks’ lack of shot blocking. On two occasions he grabbed a rebound, dribbled fullcourt, and got a lightly contested layup.

George Karl

The Nuggets came out ready to play, and they didn’t let up until the game was out of reach. His small lineups worked well against the Knicks’ small lineups.

Two Things We Saw

  1. That was anticlimactic: In Carmelo’s first game in Denver since the trade, the game was over before halftime, and he left for good less than three minutes into the second half.
  2. That was oddly familiar: Four former Nuggets played at least 20 minutes for the Knicks, and many of the Nuggets’ old habits were on display, both good and bad. There were times the Knicks seemed content to settle for long jumpers off of little ball movement, and times when J.R. Smith looked completely unguardable. This game definitely highlighted the change between the Carmelo era and the new Nuggets team era.

The importance of the Denver Nuggets 2012 training camp

With the curtains having closed on the Olympics we have officially entered the basketball doldrums, a time when we can review the past and speculate on the future, but must wait patiently for the return of live games. The silver lining this summer is that the NBA has returned to normal. The 2011 lockout is sealed in the history books, and we have a full 82-game season to look forward to, including a regular media day, training camp and preseason schedule.

But though the comfort of traditional routine has been restored in the bigger NBA picture, the Denver Nuggets find themselves in a uniquely interesting position. As a result of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups being traded during the 2010-11 season prior to the lockout, combined with the subsequent trades of Nene and Arron Afflalo as well as the departures of Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith in free agency, only two current Nuggets players, Andre Miller from 2003-06 and Ty Lawson from 2009-10, have gone through training camp at the Pepsi Center. And no two Denver players have done so together.

Remarkably, Ty Lawson is the only (more…)

Free Agency: Nuggets to meet with JaVale, Rudy unrestricted

It was more or less a foregone conclusion that JaVale McGee would become a restricted free agent, but Masai Ujiri’s penchant for secrecy couldn’t help but get a few fans worried when free agency opened without any official confirmation on McGee’s qualifying offer one way or the other. In a series of tweets on Sunday morning, Ken Berger of CBS Sports broke the silence and confirmed that the Nuggets have in fact gone through the obvious formality of extending the qualifying offer to McGee, making him a restricted free agent and allowing the Nuggets to match any offer he could receive from another team.

Berger went on to reveal that Rudy Fernandez did not receive a qualifying offer, essentially ending whatever slim hope there was of Rudy returning to the Nuggets or eventually being signed and traded to another team. Rudy will now be unrestricted and free to sign with any NBA team, but he’s currently rehabbing in Spain with an eye on playing in the London Olympics. From what I’ve been told about Rudy’s contract with Real Madrid during last year’s lockout, a deal is already in place for him to return to the Spanish team for multiple seasons after he has fulfilled his NBA contract. Considering Madrid just lost up-and-comer Kyle Singler to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, I think it’s a safe bet they go hard after Rudy and even if they don’t, holding onto Rudy’s rights isn’t likely to pay off for the Nuggets anyway. I’m pretty certain this is farewell for Rudy and the Nuggets, and quite possibly the NBA as well.

Woj followed up with the latest bit of interesting free agency news today, revealing that Masai Ujiri will meet with JaVale McGee on Monday to talk extension. I expect there to be a pretty competitive market for JaVale’s services, but the Nuggets do have the leverage of restricted free agency and Berger mentioned that JaVale has yet to receive an offer from another team.

As of now, that’s all to report on where the Nuggets currently stand in free agency.  JaVale is obviously the top priority with unrestricted free agent Andre Miller not far behind. Jeremy already did a great job previewing free agency last week, and while I do not mean to rehash his entire post, I’ll bring up a lot of the same points to preview how I think free agency is likely to play out for the Nuggets.

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Nuggets News: Gallo’s return and a Chandler update

For those not following us on twitter, there’s been a couple more rumors swirling around the ongoing Wilson Chandler saga. The first coming out of hoopshype stating that the Toronto Raptors are actively trying to free up space for an offer sheet by trading Leandro Barbosa. The second and most compelling rumor causing much consternation amongst Nuggets fans is out of Sportando, an Italian basketball website which is reporting that Chandler’s agent Chris Luchey is “in serious talks with an Italian team to seal a deal for rest of season.”

Both rumors are sourced only to twitter and it’s fair to say they’re rooted in speculation more than anything else right now. As we’ve gone through several times with the Chandler situation, he is in a unique position and only able to negotiate in earnest with one team — the Denver Nuggets.

I would not put a lot of stock into the Leandro Barbosa rumors. He’s been on the trade block for a while and the Raptors know that desperately giving him away in a hurry is a questionable move considering there is no guarantee Denver does not just match their offer sheet. As has been reported by ESPN and Hoopsworld, the Raptors seem resigned to the fact that putting together an offer sheet at this late stage is not likely to work out well.

The rumors of Chandler’s agent negotiating with Italy only reinforces our view that Denver holds all the cards in terms of Wilson returning to the NBA. It’s clear that he wants to be in the NBA, even going so far as to negotiate an early release from his Chinese team and seek an early letter of clearance from FIBA. As we have assumed for a long time, Denver has no interest in signing Chandler short term and granting him the holy grail of unrestricted free agency in exchange for a few months of service.

Wilson must feel he is being forced over to Europe due to Denver not willing to accept a one year deal. Chandler can certainly apply pressure by threatening to head over to Europe for the remainder of the season, but Denver would still own his rights whenever he returns. Not to mention Chandler runs the risk of serious injury while he remains a free agent and there is no guarantee he will be rewarded with the richer contract he’s seeking by waiting till the summer.

The Nuggets are playing hardball with Chandler, as expected. All it means as the process will be longer and more drawn out as Chandler exercises his leverage and continues to test Denver’s resolve to give him the long-term deal he seeks. The Nuggets clearly seem more interested in protecting themselves rather than just getting him on the floor and it looks like a 50/50 proposition in terms of whether or not he’ll be back.

I highly recommend following us on twitter, as I often discuss Chandler stuff there and the situation is such that we won’t post about every future development as it occurs. You can follow me here and go ahead and give Kalen and Jeremy a follow as well.

On to the current links and Nuggets news, bullet-style this time for convenience.

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Nuggets News: Rumors and rants edition

[Note: The first two stories are the previous entrees about Chris Andersen and Wilson Chandler; the next few, however, are stories that have come to light since this post was originally created.]

ESPN.com is reporting (Insider only) that Nuggets center, Chris “Birdman” Andersen is on the trading block with Koufos having been recently re-signed and playing solid basketball. There have reportedly not been any immediate suitors for Andersen, although as the trade deadline approaches this could change quickly. Although Birdman is 33 and still has two years at just below $10 million left on his contract, he might be an enticing option for a title contender who needs defensive help in the front court.

In other news, ESPN.com is reporting Wilson Chandler could return to the U.S. sooner than expected. According to Marc Stein, Chandler’s Chinese Basketball Association team, the Zhejiang Lions, made a deal with the former Nugget that as long as he managed to get the Lions to the Playoffs he could then come back to his home country earlier than expected. However, even though Lions management is willing to part with him, Chandler still must receive his FIBA letter of clearance in order to play in the NBA and it is unknown whether Chinese officials would be willing to bend on their harsh stance in regards to this issue. There is some speculation that if Chandler attends Sunday’s CBA All Star game officials would be more open to lending him his clearance letters at an earlier date.

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Nuggets News

With the start of the 2011-12 NBA season less than a week away and Afflalo still not re-signed, Nuggets fans everywhere are beginning to wonder what exactly is going on behind closed doors. Is Nuggets’ management asking for too little? Is Afflalo fielding offers from other teams? What kind of contract stipulations, if any, are being discussed? These are questions only a select few in the upper echelon of the Nuggets organization know the answer to, and unfortunately for us, they’re not telling. Until the day comes when these mysterious answers are revealed, there’s not much going on in Nuggets Nation.

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The other side of the coin

Yesterday my wonderful colleague Jeremy detailed the Nuggets 2011-12 season outlook in a post titled, How Good Can the Denver Nuggets Be? In it he expressed his concern over how this year’s team would play without a “chip” on its shoulder, without enough good defensive players in addition to how the Nuggets would be affected by losing Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler to the Chinese Basketball Association. In the end Jeremy stated, “For Nuggets fans who could not stomach the thought of rebuilding, you got your wish. They will be a playoff team for the foreseeable future, but I fear that is all they will be.” Though this may be true, I’m here to tell you why that may not be such a bad thing after all.  (more…)

Cap Holds and You

For fans looking at sites like Hoops Hype that show the Denver Nuggets with nearly $30 million in cap space and wondering why on earth Denver is not making plays for some of the big names on the free agent market I have two words for you.

Cap hold.

Personally I had not factored the various cap holds oppressing the Nuggets until I noticed that John Hollinger, in his piece analyzing the free agent signings on Saturday, noted that Denver signed Luc Richard Mbah a Moute using their mid-level exception.  The mid-level exception is for teams over the cap.  How can Denver use it when they are so far under the salary cap?  It is due to the immense power of the cap hold.

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Free Agency Digest: Day One

Free Agency hasn’t started yet, but that has caused no shortage of drama in what is sure to be the craziest NBA offseason ever. By now you’ve all heard news of the Chris Paul deal that wasn’t. The league office will open for business at 12pm MST today and it will be very interesting to see how fast the frenzy will unfold one day after the infamous Veto. This post will be updated with any Nuggets developments and our thoughts on them, so check back throughout the day.

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Nuggets News: Winning without a Superstar?

Free agency is right around the corner, and with it comes somewhat of a watershed moment for the Denver Nuggets franchise. Two of their best starters are among the most desired free agents and the Nuggets want to keep both while being extremely careful with their salary cap. Masai Ujiri can try all he wants to accomplish all three of these goals, but the most likely solution means compromising on one or two of them. Most importantly, each and every one of these choices must fall in line with a plan that makes progress towards the ultimate goal of a championship. Do we know what that plan is yet?

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Five under-the-radar free agents the Nuggets should target

Leading up to Dec. 9 when free agency officially begins there will be constant speculation regarding who the Nuggets might be eying in this year’s class. Names like Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler and Jamal Crawford have been floated around for months, but chances are none of these guys actually end up on the Nuggets roster before the upcoming season kicks of on Christmas Day. Naturally, it’s always beneficial to have a backup plan. So without further ado, here are five free agents nobody is talking about that could end up playing a major roll on the Nuggets this year if signed. (more…)

Nuggets News: CBA rumblings

Since news broke that a new CBA has been reached, the digital media universe has been teeming with rumors about possible changes from the previous structure. Everything from an amnesty clause to a mandatory pay scale has been floated around, with wild speculation not far behind. In this version of Nuggets News, we’ll take a glimpse at some of the hottest topics of discussion and evaluate how they might affect the Denver Nuggets moving forward. (more…)

Nuggets News: Post-lockout edition

Early Saturday morning news broke that the NBA lockout has finally concluded after 149 days of fierce negotiations. Though the deal has yet to be finalized, a “handshake” agreement is said to have been reached between the owners and players. All signs are pointing towards a season starting Christmas Day, with training camps and free agency beginning as soon as Dec. 9. Between now and the Nuggets first game of the 2011-12 season, which will likely be at Utah on Dec. 26, we’ll be covering a lot of material, but before we begin our analysis, here are some links to help get you acclimated with the new CBA and how it affects your favorite basketball team. (more…)

Breaking down ESPN’s #NBArank of the Denver Nuggets: Part 2

In Part 1 of this short series we examined the Denver Nuggets who landed outside the Top 100 of ESPN’s #NBArank list, which attempted to tabulate the best 500 players in the entire league. To conclude our analytical process of determining just how accurate these rankings are, we’re going to inspect the remaining Denver Nuggets — those who are perceived by our fellow TrueHoop family members, as some of the best 100 players in the entire NBA.  (more…)

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