After yet another ho-hum playoff appearance this past season, the Denver Nuggets were involved in the biggest trade of the offseason. They didn’t get the two biggest pieces in the deal in Andrew Bynum or Dwight Howard, but they did get Andre Iguodala from Philadelphia and Iggy should fit perfectly in Denver. While most teams have adjusted their style of play recently, the Nuggets continue with the same blueprint. George Karl wants to play fast, run up and down the court and score as fast as possible. Iguodala should not only help with that but also provide the Nuggets with a defensive stopper on the perimeter for when they play guys like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant out West.
George Karl joined KKFN in Denver with Scott Hastings to talk about the trade the Nuggets made this offseason, how tough it was to give up Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington, if he plans on having two units of five with all the depth the Nuggets have, on trying to be a better defensive team this season and what it will take for the Nuggets to take the next step.
On the trade the Nuggets made this offseason:
“We didn’t want to make a trade unless we knew it was going to make us better. Iguodala was kind of rumored all last year and a little bit after the season, they have Evan Turner that they maybe want to give a little more opportunity to, they see Iguodala and Turner being a little bit repetitive and of course Iguodala has the bigger contract so I think Masai (Ujiri) just did a great job of keeping a good pulse of what was going on. The negative of the trade is giving up Arron Afflalo and Al who were both very, very pivotal players on our basketball team last year and they’re good leaders on our team. Everybody is saying, what is the difference of the team going to be? And I’m not afraid of the differences and I’m hoping we can get whoever, Ty Lawson or Iggy or someone, into that locker room and give us the positive leadership that Arron and Al gave us and maybe a little bit more.”
If Al Harrington gave the team what they were looking for:
“I think you’re defining where Al is in his career. Al was a scorer and 35 minute player as a guy that had to touch the ball and wanted to touch the ball almost all the time and he was now coming into a team where we were going to ask him to play 25 minutes and try to open up the middle of the court for us and also do some banging inside. In the first year I thought he struggled with his identity or his role on our team but I thought last year he was super. I thought he was absolutely fantastic. I can remember five or six wins that we had that had Al Harrington written all over it. Then Arron Afflalo is just a rock, a really solid pro. He’s not spectacular, he’s not fancy, he’s not a highlight film but at the end of the game you get a guy who is going to get you 15 to 20 points and going to give you a solid playmaking game. Most of the time he’s a good defender but we made the trade to basically get better defensively. We think Iguodala is a top 10 defender in basketball and I don’t know if he can cover big guys but I don’t think he’d be afraid of the challenge. Play he and Gallo (Danilo Gallinari) at three and four and see if we can get away with it but the whole thing comes down to, he fits our personality, he’s one of those players in basketball that on any given night he can get a triple double and he helps you win basketball games by doing little things and team things as much as he does statistical things.”
If the Nuggets depth will allow them to use two units of five during a game:
“I think you will see us rotate the game very positively to the second unit. Now would we keep the second unit and not kind of bridge them together by meshing certain guys with other certain guys with different units? I understand what you’re trying to say. I’ve never seen it be that successful in the NBA but I think the big thing for us is who is going to commit to playing fast. We talked about it and last year we did a good job at it but there’s no way I want to slow down. I want to try to prove the world wrong that you can run and win in the NBA and you can win big if you keep running. The problem is can you run for 82 games every minute, every possession of every game?”
Whether the team needs to improve defensively:
“I don’t think there’s any question that we have to balance our strengths out by becoming a better defensive team and I don’t think we will weaken up offensively but statistics for our defense lie because we give up more points because we play faster. My question would be point differential. We were probably in the top 15 in point differential but I’d like to see us move into the top six or seven in point differential and that will be something that I think that’s going to tell us because the pace of our game is statistically going to cheat us a little bit because we’re going to give up more points and at times we’re probably going to give up a few more but the things that we can do better defensively, we can defend the three ball better than we defended it, we can be better at pick and roll coverage and we need individual challenges and we need guys like Iguodala who can jump into a game and say ‘hey I got this one. Here’s a problem and I’m going to take him out. You worry about the other things.”
What the Nuggets have to do to take the next step:
“It’s our young guys gaining confidence and building trust. We can’t worry about what the fans and sports writers think excellence is. Being in the playoffs and nine or ten consecutive years is an excellent performance by an organization and I’ve been blessed to be a part of it but there’s a lot of other guys that have really been a part of it too, starting with (Jeff) Bzdelik before I got here. He laid the foundation to be successful before I got here. We have gotten higher at times and then we haven’t gotten as high as we wanted at times but expectations and excellence is defined by the fan and/or the sportswriter and/or the commentators like you guys on the radio. We can’t do anything about that. We are excited about this season and we think we can be a top four team in the West. If we get to a top four team in the West we should expect to try to win the first round and see what happens after that.”