The Denver Nuggets gave the Los Angeles Lakers all they could handle in the first round of the playoffs. After falling down 3-1 in the series, the Nuggets pushed the Lakers all the way to game seven. While it was a gritty effort by the Nuggets and they should be admired for the way they pushed Los Angeles, the result was all too familiar for George Karl and the Nuggets. It was yet another first round playoff exit.
Despite the loss, the Nuggets showed that there is a ton of potential and they also showed that they are one of the deepest teams in the NBA. Their bench carried them at times in the first round against the Lakers, but ultimately they fell to a team of stars. As the offseason approaches with the team having decisions to make on JaVale McGee and Andre Miller, they also have to examine their roster and decide whether they can win in the tough, rugged Western Conference the way they are constructed, with point guard Ty Lawson as option number one on offense.
George Karl joined 102.3 the Ticket with Les and Jojo to talk about losing game seven against the Lakers, whether this season was his most enjoyable as a coach, where he would like to see him team improve this offseason, if he thinks the Nuggets can improve enough to win a first round playoff series without making changes to the roster and what he thinks about JaVale McGee.
On losing game seven against the Lakers:
“I never won a seventh game on the road. I’ve won some fifth games on the road but I’ve never won a seventh game on the road and my team, I thought was playing at a really good emotional level and when we got the lead with about eight minutes to go up four I actually said to myself it’s probably too early to get too happy but it was just a good experience. The whole season was crazy from the standpoint of the lockout, trades, having some tough times, bouncing back and have a lot of injuries with different lineups having to come in and learn their role and their responsibilities and then to kind of put it together in April at the end of the season and then play well, down three to one and losing game four, it’s kind of funny they shot the ball so poorly the whole series but they won two games with the three ball. They won game seven and they won game four with the three ball.”
Whether this season was his most enjoyable as a coach:
“No question. It was enjoyable because it had a different pulse to it and I think we responded, I think our coaching staff and our organization and the players all responded faster and quicker than a lot of teams in this league did. The lockout season threw you a lot of curveballs. I called it the ‘knuckleball season’ because you didn’t know when you were going to be tired, the fatigue factor was up and down and all over the place and I think the depth of our team it solved two problems. It solved the fatigue problem and also the injury problem. We overcame those things where I think other teams got hit by the fatigue situation on certain nights and just never responded or could get the game back to being positive. The closeness between the team and the coaching staff helped us survive and survive the tough times and then when the ball got rolling in a good way we had an ability to keep it rolling that way.”
Where he would like to see his team improve this offseason:
“I’d like to toughen up a little bit and get our big guys a little more physical and a little more rebound oriented. Thought the Laker series, I’m not saying we got beat up but we got pushed around a little bit. I think offensively we need to shoot the ball better, I think our perimeter guys have to spend more time in the gym making the three ball and I think in general there just has to be a commitment that this isn’t good enough. The next step is going to be harder than what we did this year and we can’t be happy or satisfied with having a good series and losing in the first round.”
Whether the improvements can be made to win a first round playoff series with the current roster in place:
“ I think you’re always going to have that attitude of making improvements but I think in the same sense this is probably the most complete roster at the end of the season that we would say ‘hey we’re okay with this roster, we can go win next year.’ There’s going to be all types of summer what ifs. What if we can do this? What if we can do that? What if this happens? We’re going to be ready for whatever is dealt our way but I don’t remember a season where we would be probably as content to go into next year. And our free agents, I think (General Manager) Masai (Ujiri) with JaVale (McGee) and Andre (Miller), very content to try and get them signed and I trust that they will probably get them signed.”
On JaVale McGee’s game:
“He’s pretty good. We think he’s really raw right now so you’re looking at a guy that I think can be a starting center and put together really good numbers. We thought Nene was good at 12 and eight or 14 and eight, I don’t know what Nene averaged last year but I think JaVale McGee can get to those numbers really quick and what we want to teach them is to not give us the bad part of basketball. Don’t give us mistakes, become fundamentally sound and be a presence every possession, have a presence to your game at both ends of the court on every possession. He does wild and crazy things on the court but he is pretty coachable. He listens and I think he’s very anxious to be with the coaching staff this summer and I think you will see us spend a lot of time with him between now until when he becomes a free agent just to make sure he understands that we want him with us and touch him along the way.”