Normally when a team loses their best player, they take a step backwards and go through some tough stretches. Some teams even fall out of the playoff picture and into the lottery. Well not if you’re the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets are surprisingly 7-2 in their nine games since trading away Carmelo Anthony and the trade seems to have made them a better team overall. Not only have they stayed right in the thick of it in the Western Conference playoff picture, but they have jumped over the Hornets for the fifth spot and gained a little bit of ground on Oklahoma City for the fourth as well.
George Karl joined 104.3 the Fan in Denver with the Drive to talk about his comments in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated about not getting much respect, what the addition of Raymond Felton has meant to his team, the team playing with more energy and playing as more of a team now that ‘Melo is gone, and how far he thinks his team can go this season.
On the Nuggets getting written off and not getting very much respect:
“There’s something every day that gets me into that mode a little bit. Usually it starts with reading the clips early in the morning. There’s always someone saying we’re ready for the lottery, we haven’t beaten anybody yet, this is just a fluke, this is just a honeymoon, or whatever they want to say. I don’t think I overstate myself very often, but I saw this team practice and the first time I saw them practice I said ‘whoa, this is really nice.’ We got a tough hand dealt to us. Our schedule is not the greatest and we’ve got a playoff race that’s going to be interesting, but I think all those things, if we succeed are going to make us so much better to be ready to play in the playoffs. At the same time there are difficult hurdles to get over, but if we get over them I think the reward is going to be great.”
On the impact of Raymond Felton:
“Raymond reminds me a lot of Andre Miller. He just does things that helps you win games and I think it’s an exciting thing to have on our team. A guy the only thing he cares about is winning and statistics are not important to him. He told me when I talked to him, I sat down and talked to him for 45 minutes, he said all I want to do is win and be in playoff situations. Last year was the first year he played in the playoffs and he just wants to get back there and learn how to be a winner in the playoffs. I think he is a really solid to really good player. He’s not going to be flashy and he’s not going to be spectacular. When we have he and Ty (Lawson) on the floor together we have two guys that can run the pick-and-roll situations and the penetration situations and it’s really been the key to our offense since the change.”
On the team playing harder and playing more defense without Carmelo Anthony:
“I don’t think there’s any question that our personality of trying to get ‘Melo to be a little bit more involved with how we wanted to play versus his talent, which is scoring points. There’s a value to that and I have a lot of respect for what ‘Melo can do for a team. I don’t think you’re ever going to be a bad team with ‘Melo’s personality, but you’ve gotta work around his personality a little bit. I think sometimes the team is more important than the individual. You need individual talents, you need individual skills, you need the ability to score, but we were just cheating the game so much on the defensive end of the court, cheating the game in some offensive situations that I didn’t think we were getting enough team into the game as much as we were just getting scoring into the game.”
How far the team can go this season:
“If we stay committed to just playing with energy and intensity and allow who’s playing well to be on the court and not worry about minutes or shots, I think we can be dangerous. We have 12 guys that can play NBA basketball, maybe 13. I have a minute problem in the games, but the whole thing comes down to is the energy and intensity, if everybody commits to giving that to the court on a daily basis I think we’re going to be very, very successful. I know we’ve got a tough road trip coming up here, we start off in New Orleans, go to Atlanta, and finish in Orlando and Miami, but I just hope we can get tomorrow’s game against Detroit playing with an energy on our home court where the fans can be a part of what we’re feeling and get lifted up another step. Then go out on the road trip and see what happens. If we have a good game tomorrow night, I think I can challenge my team to play playoff basketball for the next four games because in a lot of ways we’re gaining our pride, playing the game the right way, and the confidence in winning and beating those teams on the road would be really big for us and I think we can go get them done.” (Editor’s note: Obviously this interview took place before the Detroit game)