George Karl: “I’ve given J.R. some freedoms I probably wouldn’t give most players because of his athletic skills. And has he abused those freedoms at times? Yes. But part of that is my fault…”January 29, 2010 – 10:30 am by Michael Bean
The Denver Nuggets keep plodding along nicely to the playoffs. They’re getting bodies back healthy, and for the first time ever it seems, Carmelo Anthony is really playing like the star that he can be on a nightly basis. There’s still J.R. Smith on the roster which means you never know what could happen, and as you’ll hear, head coach George Karl has admitted Smith gets different treatment than the rest of his team.
Karl joined The Jim Rome Show to talk about whether or not he thinks the Nuggets need to make a move before the Trading Deadline to have legitimate championship aspirations, on if there’s been any progress about extending his contract as the coach of the Nuggets, if he’d be willing to take a ‘hometown discount’ to remain in Denver, if he’s ever coached a stronger and more volatile personality than J.R. Smith, why he thinks he’s largely to blame for Smith’s erratic behavior at times, why the team didn’t suspend Smith for his recent actions, and why he thinks Chauncey Billups has played better point guard than anybody in the Western Conference since returning from injury in the month of January – a month that the Nuggets have dominated up until this point.
On if he thinks his team needs an extra body to make a championship push as the trade deadline looms in the NBA:
“Well you know, what I’ve said all along is certain match-ups I think we’re fine, there might be other match-ups where I think we’re half a body short. But in the business world we’re in today, making trades is probably going to be more difficult because I don’t think there’s a lot of owners who are interested in bringing in salaries over the tax. And I think we’re one of those teams right now. So I think we’re going to be on the phone lines. I think we’re going to pursue certain situations and circumstances that might make our team better. But in the last 6 weeks, I’d say our team has kind of gotten re-focused. We’ve had a great month of January, so I think it’s a combination of if you’re asking me a basketball question I’d say we could use another half a body against the bigger teams. But against the Phoenixes and the smaller teams, I think we’re probably okay.”
On if there’s been any discussions about a contract extension for himself being that he’s in the final year of his contract with the Nuggets:
“I think the best way I can define it is there’s a harmony between the negotiations. What I think you have is you’ve got an owner that’s on the Collective Bargaining Agreement committee of the owners, and I think he wants to hold the line with other owners and not give a contract that would have a raise in it probably. And I’m a coach that’s fighting for the coaches. You know, I want the coaches…I think the coaches year in and year over the last five or six years have lost some sort of…whatever phrase you want to use…territory. They’ve lost some influence, they’ve lost some power and so I’m kind of being a businessman. I think Stan Kroenke’s a great guy, I love him as an owner. But he’s being a businessman. And whatever happens, happens. But I think whatever happens there will be a harmony to it and I can live with it.”
On if he would be willing to give Denver a ‘hometown discount’ to remain the coach of the Nuggets:
“I love Denver. I personally would like to stay in Denver and would enjoy…I think my next deal would be kind of a contract that I would like to end my career in that city. And Denver would be my first choice.”
On if he’s ever coached a personality quite like J.R. Smith:
“[Laughing] Not really. I mean J.R. would be one of those personalities of eclectic behavior in a lot of ways – on and off the court, body language, hip-hop generation, whatever you want to label it. But I actually like J.R. I know people are going to say ‘nah, no way.’ I’ve given J.R. some freedoms I probably wouldn’t give most players because of his athletic skills. And has he abused those freedoms at times? Yes. But part of that is my fault and how I control him and how I communicate with him. I probably have to do a better job there relaying exactly what I want from him.”
On why the organization decided not to suspend J.R. Smith:
“It was probably an organizational thing and it was probably based on what I was saying – it’s that I probably felt a good enough job laying out the rules and regulations of what was going on. And I think I probably, and my coaching staff probably, had drifted away from communicating with him as well. And we decided just to do it in house and handle it. I had a great meeting with him I think on Monday and it was probably the best meeting J.R. and I have ever had. It was over probably after an hour long and I think we cleared the air, and if you saw the game last night, he was a big reason we won.”
On the play of point guard Chauncey Billups since returning from injury:
“First of all let me say, Chauncey Billups since he’s been back from his injury, has been the best point guard in the Western Conference. I don’t care – you can talk Steve Nash, you can talk Chris Paul – I mean we’re 11-1 in the month of January and he has had incredible games. He’s been the most consistent he’s played for us ever since he’s been in Denver. And I just think he’s been fantastic. He knows when to take leadership of this team both scoring wise but also leadership wise. With the injuries we’ve had – ‘Melo being out of some games – and playing a lot of really good teams in January, he’s been our leader and he’s been fantastic.”