It was a tough season for the Denver Nuggets. One filled with injuries, youth, inconsistency and even some wheeling and dealing. However it looks like Denver has hit their stride and found their identity just in time for the playoffs. Not only did the Nuggets wrap up a playoff spot already, but they have won six of their last eight games and crept into the sixth spot in the playoffs. If the season were to end today, Denver would be staring at the Los Angeles Lakers in a first round playoff matchup and with the impending suspension of Ron Artest and the emergence of Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, and Arron Afflalo this season for Denver and the Nugs and Lakers could have another interesting battle in the Western Conference playoffs.
George Karl joined 102.3 the Ticket in Denver with CK and Kreckman to talk about how he feels about the team heading into the playoffs, if the key to the team is Ty Lawson, whether he thinks Denver will need to slow the pace in the playoffs, if he thinks it’s a weakness of his to trust veterans too much and what personality he thinks the team took on.
How he feels about the team heading into the playoffs:
“I think we’re ready to go into the playoffs and play the best basketball we’ve played all year long. I think the young guys, Arron (Afflalo) and Ty (Lawson), have had solid to very good years. At times they both had parts of the season where they weren’t involved as much we would like them to be but the last six weeks they have been I think very, very special and I think our big guys in a crazy way, all of them have figured out how to help us win games. Gallo (Danilo Gallinari) seems like he’s getting his legs back and his feel for the game back which I think we need in the playoffs to be successful and the number one thing about our team all year long is our bench. Our bench has been spectacular. Andre (Miller) and Al (Harrington) have been big time veterans, Corey Brewer has been really good off the bench and I think some of the other guys have always pitched in from Rudy Fernandez even though he’s out for the year, he helped us early in the season win three or four games and I think it’s a young, energetic team that is really anxious. As a coach, I’m 60-years-old and I’m anxious to see what we can do and I don’t think anybody in the NBA this year is that far away from anybody else. I will give Oklahoma City and San Antonio, they’ve had special years and are very, very good but it’s a long process and it all begins in about six or seven days.”
Whether the team will go as far as Ty Lawson takes them:
“I think the one thing we have is two playmakers who can make plays in any game and we can win games because of it. Because of Ty’s youthfulness, his speed, and his ability to probably be more explosive than Andre, I think he’s our engine and I think Andre in a lot of ways is our steering wheel. I think everybody else is kind of the wheels of the car. I don’t think there’s any question that Ty and Andre are the guys that make our offense happen.”
Whether he thinks the Nuggets need to slow the pace when the playoffs start:
“If your team says run, play fast, and be aggressive then why would you want to be like the Los Angeles Lakers and slow down and play a possession game. I understand all the things that people say but I’m going to be honest with you, San Antonio is playing just like we play. Oklahoma City plays a lot like how we play. They’ve won a lot more games and a lot more big games than we have but if our defense continues to improve, which it has over the last four or five weeks, if we don’t beat ourselves, we have a lot of talent and if we put the pieces together we can play with anybody in this league. Probably the key to our team in those situations is making shots from the outside and Ty Lawson being into every game.”
On trusting veterans too much:
“Fortunately I’ve always been on teams that had to make the playoffs and had to win 50 games or win 60 games. In Seattle if we didn’t win 60 games we had a bad year. The expectations of the team that you are with, if you expected us to make the playoffs this year I want you to know if there’s another rookie in the NBA today that played more minutes than Kenneth Faried as a rookie on a team that has made the playoffs. I don’t know if there is or not. I haven’t studied it but all I’m saying to you is rookies on teams that have to make the playoffs to have a great year they don’t play. The team that drafts a guy with the sixth pick in the draft and won 20 games last year, yeah he’s going to play because they don’t have to win 45 games. I disagree with all the crap that been said by all these fans that I don’t play rookies. Ty Lawson played 24 minutes as a rookie. That is a lot of time for a rookie. We had to win 50 games to make the playoffs and he still play 25 minutes per game. Now if you want to play rookies and give them minutes and lose then that’s not me. You’re right. That’s not me as a coach. I think you guys are way off board on the bullsh…crap that you guys have been throwing out about me and Kenneth. Kenneth has played a lot of minutes, he will continue to play a lot of minutes, and he’s earned those minutes in the right way. He’s earned it by the respect of the players, he’s earned it by helping us win games and he’s earned it by continuing to keep a strong, professional attitude.”
On the personality that the team took on this year:
“I think the personality was we drifted from a team that didn’t have a direction to a team that now has a good direction. A team that with Arron, Ty and all the young guys from the New York trade and we didn’t exactly know what we would be this year and I think come this summer, Masai (Ujiri), Josh and I and the whole organization is going to know what we have to do. After the lockout, the new collective bargaining agreement, we’ve regrouped re-established ourselves as a playoff team that’s dangerous and if we make some good moves in the next couple of years we’re going to be really dangerous.”