George Karl having ‘Fun’ Coaching Young Nuggets, Views LeBron James as NBA’s best: “There’s no question he’s going to win a championship”January 27, 2012 – 10:50 am by Chris Fedor
During the middle of last year’s NBA season, the Denver Nuggets had a huge decision to make that would shape the future of the franchise. With disgruntled star Carmelo Anthony set to become a free agent at the end of the season, the Nuggets had two choices: Hope to sign him to a contract extension and risk losing him for nothing, or trade away their star player and start to re-tool the roster with assets. The Nuggets ultimately decided to do the latter and it looks as if it was the right call. The Nuggets received a nice haul for ‘Melo including Danillio Gallinari and cap flexibility that was used to retain Nene and give Gallinarri a new four-year extension.
While the Knicks have struggled since ‘Melo arrived in the Big Apple and their team looks broken, George Karl’s Nuggets have risen to second place in the Western Conference. The early advantage in the Carmelo Anthony deal goes to Denver.
George Karl joined The Dan Patrick Show to talk about how his team’s solid play is helping his health, the depth of his team this year, what advice he would give Stan Van Gundy on handling the distraction of the Dwight Howard trade rumors, why things aren’t working in New York in his estimation, who the best player in the NBA is, and who he would take to win one game if he was coaching the team.
How much his team playing well is playing a part in his good health right now:
“There’s no question that the stress level of how my team is playing and the coachability of the team and seeing some young kids really kind of jump up and take the responsibility of trying to be special, it’s been fun. The stress of the season this year is the crazy schedule. (Sarcastically) This weekend we have a really easy schedule. We play in LA against the Clippers, then come home and play the Lakers here on Friday, and then fly to Portland on Saturday. That’s gotta be the most sadistic three games the NBA dealt out this year. If somebody else has three tougher games than that I’d like to hear about it.”
On the depth of his team:
“Well we go nine or ten guys deep every night. We could actually go 11 deep that’s an exploration and hopefully wait until we have some ability to explore. I think the Western Conference still there’s ten playoff teams, maybe 11. Today there are probably 12 teams that think they’re going to make the playoffs. Even though we’re the second best record in the league we’re two losses away from being the 8th best record in the league. It’s going to be really competitive, our schedule in February is the hardest part of our schedule, and we will know who we are when we play the Clippers and Lakers. (Sarcastically) Then we have an easy stretch when we have Houston, Dallas, at Indiana, then we come back with Dallas, at Dallas, at Memphis, and at Oklahoma City so at the end of February we should have a good feeling of what we need to do and how good we are.”
What advice he would give to Stan Van Gundy about handling trade rumors with a superstar:
“I addressed it earlier in the season with the team when talking about negative energy and talking about how Melo’s made a choice but he’s given us a promise that he’s going to work hard in practice and try to keep the team in a good place and he did. Early in the season, people forget last year we had two of our big guys, Kenyon Martin and Bird, not even in our rotation. They were out the first 25 or 30 games and we were playing a makeshift lineup and survived. It was actually when Kenyon and Bird came back when the negativity and the heaviness of the situation got difficult. Through January with all the trade rumors. Every day there was another trade rumor, every day there was another team, every day there was a response by someone on our team, or by Melo, or by me. I think Stan has made kind of a pact that he’s not going to talk about it. I kind of talked about it to try to take it away from the team. There’s so many media people coming into the city where you are at and I talked about it because I felt maybe other players wouldn’t be bothered by it as much. I whispered to guys ‘hey let me do the talking. Don’t go after the other guys in the locker room.’ It got way too heavy and lasted way, way too long. It will be interesting to see how Orlando responds as the season goes on because there are so many different negative forces during the season. There’s the schedule, there’s fatigue, there’s injury, innuendo, losing streaks, and controlling how much negative energy you can handle in your locker room, and it really comes on your days off and your time when you’re trying to figure out how to get better, what pieces you need to put together better, and what things you need to correct. That’s the distraction that I think Stan is probably going to have to see and be patient with. Then the final decision. We were a week away from not making the trade. I keep hearing the possibility that they might not make that trade. That would be interesting if they decide to go to through the whole season and not make that trade. That would be really interesting to see how that would pan out.”
What he thinks is wrong with the Knicks:
“I don’t study the Eastern Conference teams and I don’t know if you saw the game but it was a great basketball game. Even though Melo didn’t have a good stat night he had moments where he was Melo and he was really special at the end of the fourth quarter. He brought his team back when they shouldn’t have even won the game in regulation and took it into two overtimes. In a way I think New York is trying to build a championship team, they made some power moves, and they haven’t worked out. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the pieces to make another one or two and still make it work. We feel good because we think we put a good team on the court. I think our team is a team that’s got to make another move. I don’t know if it’s this year but I think there’s another piece to this team that would maybe then put us into a contender for hopefully three or four years.”
On the best player in the league:
“Well the best player in the league is LeBron. He is playing at an incredible level and I think Derrick Rose is banged up. I think those two guys are probably right now head and shoulders performing a little bit better. Then there’s the guy down in Oklahoma City, the Westbrook-Durant package, I don’t know if they’re unhappy with each other but they sure don’t play unhappy. I would say the three guys I would say Durant out West and Rose. I think Chicago is a really good basketball team. After Derrick Rose, it’s a lot like the Mavericks. They win because they have a lot of good players after Derrick Rose and they play great team defense and very unified on the offense end of the court.”
Who he would pick in the NBA to coach if he needed to win one game:
“I would probably still go with LeBron. I just like his play-making ability and his ability to make other people play at a high level and he will figure this thing out. Are you going to admit that LeBron will never win a championship? (Host: He’s going to win a championship.) There’s no question he’s going to win a championship.”