George Karl Still a Believer in Nuggets After Carmelo Anthony Trade: “You guys must think I’m crazy but I think we’re good.”

February 25, 2011 – 9:00 am by Michael Bean

The 2011 NBA trading deadline has passed and man oh man, what an eventful sequence of events it has been. The marquee deal, of course, was the Denver Nuggets finally finding a trading partner for Carmelo Anthony. George Karl already went on the record to say that he thinks the Nuggets might benefit from no longer having a superstar that tends to hold on to the ball too long. Most recently, Karl avoided taking any underhanded swipes at ‘Melo and his style of play, but still reiterated that he thinks the Nuggets might surprise some people with their revamped roster. Then again, he also stated in his most recent radio interview that he believes Major League Baseball is the league that gets it most right when it comes to fostering a competitive landscape, and I think he also confused the difference between a governor and mayor. But that’s semantics, no? The man truly believes that the Nuggets can still hang tough in the tough Western Conference and maybe even make some noise come playoff time this spring.

Karl joined the Dan Patrick Show to talk about whether he thought there was a legitimate possibility that the Nuggets would be able to retain ‘Melo, the talent the Nuggets got in return for Anthony and what he thinks of his new-look team, if he’s one who believes that this year’s player movement is a prime example of why the NBA needs to be restructured significantly in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and his thoughts on local hero Chauncey Billups leaving Denver in the later stages of his career to go play in New York.

Whether he thought there was a legitimate possibility that the Nuggets would be able to retain ‘Melo:

“I always felt there was a part of ‘Melo that wanted to stay in Denver. The reasons he wanted to play other places other than maybe the big city, the big market, was he wanted a team that was more of championship mentality. I thought we touched that two years ago when we were close, and last year when we got sick and Kenyon blew out a knee, it was just a tough, tough way to finish out a year. I just wanted another year to show him that we’re not that far away. But I just think as it wore on it got to be too heavy for everybody. I mean, it got too heavy for the equipment manager, it got too heavy for the bus driver. It was just too much for everybody, and I think everybody realized maybe two or three weeks ago that it had to change.”

On the talent the Nuggets got in return for Anthony and what he thinks of his new-look team:

“You guys must think I’m crazy but I think we’re good. I had one practice with them, and I’m going ‘whoa!’ What always kind of mystifies me about this world of basketball is there’s so many brilliant minds in basketball; there’s so many guys that believe in the zone or believe in the triangle-and-two, or believe in the slow-down offense, or believe in the fast passing game offense — there’s so many ways to build a philosophy and win. But it seems like in the NBA  you can only win with super stars. And I don’t believe that. I’ve always coached kind of doing what everybody else does, I do different. When I went to Seattle, nobody trapped and nobody did anything, so we fronted the post, and we double-teamed post-ups, and we doubled 40 or 50 percent of possessions a game and that worked. I just think why can’t you build a team where you don’t have a top-five player, but maybe a top-20 player at every position. That’s kind of what I’m thinking what we’re going to be. We might not have an All Star, but at every position and maybe even have a bench that has more versatility and explosiveness than anybody else. So you have six or seven weapons, you might not have a superstar weapon, but you have good weapons. And then play hard, play defense, and be the most unselfish basketball team that you can be, because team wins more often than talent in this league anyways.”

If he’s one who believes that this year’s player movement is a prime example of why the NBA needs to be restructured significantly in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement:

“I have no problem being a small market team. I mean, baseball does it better than anybody. When you’ve got a team like Minnesota, and even St. Louis — I don’t think St. Louis is a big market — the Pirates, the only team I wish would play a little better is the Pirates; my Pirates haven’t won in like 30 years. There’s always a team that challenges to get to the top that’s a small market. You know, we went to the Eastern Conference Finals, we were a jump shot away from going to the Finals in Milwaukee in the early 2000s. I just always think there’s going to be a team that’s going to jump up and be good enough. One of the great young teams in the game today is Oklahoma City, and I don’t know how well they’ll do in the playoffs, but I think they’re dangerous. If they get a big guy today in the trade deadline situation, I think they can play against the big boys in the West.” (Editor’s Note:  Obviously this interview took place before the Thunder traded for Kendrick Perkins)

On Chauncey Billups leaving his hometown of Denver:

“Well my pain is probably more for Chauncey. I mean, Chauncey loves Denver, if he ran for governor he’d win, that’s how popular he is in this town. His family loves it here. His family and his mom are at every game. He’s got an Academy here that’s incredible. It’s for young basketball players, but he also mentors them as students and as people. He has a fiber of character that very few players have. And what I love is is Chauncey Billups a great player? Is he a great talent? You’re not going to put Chauncey Billups in the top three or four speed-wise, but he is one of the top three or four guys in NBA history at winning.  He wins. His teams win. He went to eight Conference Finals in a row. I mean, that’s an incredible number. The only teams to do that are the dynasty teams, and he played for Detroit and Denver and did that. So I miss him. As for ‘Melo…as a coach you always look back and you look at yourself and you go well you were always blessed to have a Shawn Kemp, or a Gary Payton or Ray Allen, or a ‘Melo. The talent they have is in that two or three percentile of guys who not only have athletic talent, but they have basketball talent. And ‘Melo might be the best scorer I’ve ever coached. I mean, he has the knack to score in bunches, and he can do it against any defense you throw at him. If you put a little guy on him, he’ll go inside. If you play a big guy on him, he’ll go outside. And the only thing I would say I wish ‘Melo would do more of is I think he should go out and get triple-doubles. He’s a great rebounder and he can be a great passer, but it seems sometime that the rebound switch is on sometimes, sometimes it’s off. Sometimes the passing switch is on, sometimes it’s off. And his drive maybe to be a complete player in that way is something that’s probably frustrating to me as a coach.”

Listen here to George Karl on the Dan Patrick Show with (Chris Mannix and Seth Davis on SI filling in)

(Interview begins at 28:30 mark)

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