With Mike D’Antoni and Avery Johnson gone, how does George Karl still have a job?
If I could pick one coach in the NBA to sit down and have a conversation with, it would be the Denver Nuggets’ George Karl because there doesn’t seem to be a more down to earth, interesting and kind person in the league.
But that’s exactly the problem.
The Nuggets won 50 games this year, but for the fourth straight time, Karl couldn’t lead his Denver team past the first round.
Granted, the Western Conference is ridiculously hard – evidenced by a 50-win team barely sneaking into the playoffs as the eighth seed. But this Nuggets team should be a whole lot better, and Karl should be fired because they’re not.
This year, the Denver Nuggets were the second-worst defensive team in the league, giving up close to 107 points per game. But this is a team filled with great defensive players.
Let’s examine: Anthony Carter – solid defensive player; Allen Iverson – leads the league in steals almost every year; Eduardo Najera – scrappy defensive player; Kenyon Martin – perhaps the most underrated defensive power forward in the game; Marcus Camby – last year’s Defensive Player of the Year.
So with all these great – or at least good – defensive players, why are the Nuggets frustratingly bad on defense? It’s a problem with the system, and that is the fault of the head coach.
Yes, Karl is an offensive coach, and the Nuggets were one of the top offensive teams in the league (second in the NBA at 110.65 points per game). But if you watch the Lakers-Nuggets series, Los Angeles moved the ball around so fluently where you couldn’t focus on just Kobe Bryant because the open man was always going to be found.
With the Nuggets, it’s just an isolation game. Allen Iverson dribbles, dribbles, dribbles, and Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith just shoot, shoot, shoot. But good offensive players like Camby, Nene or Martin aren’t factors because they don’t get involved.
So how did that hurt them in the playoffs? The Nuggets had 29 less assists than the Lakers, and eventually, they were swept by a team that played better together.
Once again, I blame that on the system and the coach.
But it’s not just the system.
Karl’s biggest problem is perhaps also his best trait: his kind demeanor.
I think he’s too nice a guy, and the players take advantage of it.
On the Nuggets, Karl doesn’t hold any of his players accountable because he just wants to be their friend. You can do that on a disciplined team like the Spurs, but when you have personalities like the Nuggets have, somebody needs to hold players accountable. If you don’t, you get a team that is not committed enough on the defensive end that’s filled with players that want to take over the offense by themselves.
Even worse, you have guys getting thrown out in the crucial moments of Game 1 (A.I.), and others getting DUIs right before the playoffs start (‘Melo).
The old Karl would never allow this to take place.
When he was coaching the Seattle Supersonics in the early 90s, Karl was just as fiery as his point guard, Gary Payton. Maybe it’s the age that has softened him up. But whatever it is, Karl needs to move on because this team will never be a factor in the West Playoffs as long as he’s involved.